Israeli general reveals Qaeda bases in Turkey
The rise of al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria left Ankara open to accusations of supporting radical Islamists
Some of the al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria have set up bases in Turkey, where they can also easily access Europe, Israel’s military intelligence chief said Wednesday.
Al-Qaeda fighters from around the world enter Syria weekly, but they “do not stay there,” Major-General Aviv Kochavi told a security conference, while presenting a map of the Middle East, which was marked with areas of al-Qaeda presence. The map showed three markings of al-Qaeda bases in Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly denied his country was providing shelter for backing groups linked to al-Qaeda in Syria. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman did not have an immediate comment on the topic, reported Reuters.
No specific numbers
While the Israeli general did not give specific numbers, his spokesperson said the presented map showed the strength and the location of al-Qaeda bases, which appeared to be in the Turkish provinces of Karaman, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa.
“Syria is projecting its conflict to the whole region. Those blotches [on the map] in Turkey are no mistake by the graphic artist and it is a short way from there into Europe,” Kochavi said at the conference, which was held by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
Throughout the Syrian conflict, Turkey provided a lifeline to areas held by the rebels, through allowing in humanitarian aid, helping refugees out of the country, and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army carry out organizational operations in Turkey.
However the rise of al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has left Ankara open to accusations of supporting radical Islamists.