Turkish police clash with protestors against policy on Syria

By bne IntelliNews May 20, 2013

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Turkish police battled protestors in Istanbul and the Syrian border town of Reyhanli over the weekend, as violence broke out at demonstrations against the government's policy towards its civil-war stricken neighbour.

On May 17, police in Istanbul fired tear gas and water cannon at dozens protesting last week's twin car bomb attacks that killed 52 people in Reyhanli, as well as Ankara's heavy support of the Syrian militants engaged in a drawn out fight with President Assad's government forces. The scuffles broke out as police blocked an attempt to march through the city.

The following day, demonstrators took to streets in Reyhanli, on the Syrian border, province to protest against the policies of the ruling AKP. Southern Turkey has seen an influx of Syrian refugees during the conflict, while the devastating bombing in early May followed several instances of rocket fire across the border.

In the West, growing concern over the role of radical Islam in the Syrian Free Army has tethered policy, but Ankara has continued to offer verbal and logistical support. Turkey says Syria was behind the May 11 bombings in Hatay Province, but the Syrian government has dismissed the claim, responding with a claim that Turkey planned the attacks to use them as a pretext to justify foreign intervention in Syria.

The demonstrators in Reyhanli chanted anti-government slogans and blamed the Turkish government for the twin bombings, which injured around 100, on top of the deaths. Security forces clashed with protesters, and used water cannons to disperse the crowd.

Hatay Governor Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz told reporters on May 17 that police have detained a prime suspect in connection with the Reyhanli blasts. The suspect is of Turkish origin and comes from Hatay Province. Efforts are ongoing to capture two other suspects who played a major role in the staging of the bloody attacks.

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