Ankara: Turkish authorities have detained six people suspected of plotting to attack and kidnap Syrian refugees in Turkey, an official said today, as the country increased security measures along its frontier with Syria following a pair of deadly bombings in a border town.
Celalettin Lekesiz, the governor for the border province of Hatay, said the six suspects, all Turkish citizens, had been under police and intelligence agency surveillance for some time and were detained yesterday because there were "strong signs" they were preparing to act.
The detentions come more than a week after twin car bombings in the town of Reyhanli killed 51 people and raised fears that Turkey was being dragged into the Syrian conflict. The government has blamed a group allegedly linked to Syria`s intelligence agency for the attack, a charge Syria has denied. More than a dozen people have been arrested in connection with the bombings.
Lekesiz said the target of the foiled attack plans were "places where Syrian refugees are staying," but did not elaborate. About 200,000 Syrian refugees are sheltering in 17 camps near the 900-kilometre long border with Syria. An estimated 100,000 other Syrians have also fled the conflict and are living in Turkey on their own means, according to government officials.
Turkey, one of Syrian President Bashar Assad`s critics, is also serving as a base for opposition activists and fighters and there have been reports of abductions or attempted kidnappings of Syrian opposition figures.
Five people, including a former Turkish intelligence official, are on trial in Turkey for allegedly abducting former Syrian Lt.-Col. Hussein Harmoush, one of the first Syrian army officers to defect after Syria`s uprising began, and handing him over to Syrian authorities in 2011.
Today, officials said Turkey had closed down for a month a border gate opposite an area still controlled by Assad`s regime to upgrade its security.
Turkey was installing advanced security equipment at the Yayladagi border gate, an entry point to Syria`s Latakia region, which is under the control of Assad regime forces, an official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn`t authorised to speak to journalists without prior permission.
Only Turkish citizens and nationals of third countries wanting to enter Turkey or Syrians wanting to return to Syria would be allowed to pass through the gate while the upgrade is taking place, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.