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News Analysis

Syrian Possibly Behind U.S. Embassy Bombing in Turkey

Tue, February 5, 2013

Ryan Mauro

On Friday, February 1, a suicide bombing took place outside the U.S. embassy in Turkey, killing a Turkish security guard and wounding another. The Turkish government says this was not the work of Islamist terrorists. The bomber belonged to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group and a group has ties to the Assad dictatorship of Syria. This raises the possibility that Assad used DHKP-C to take revenge on Turkey for supporting the Syrian rebels.

DHKP-C was viewed as a has-been terrorist group from the Cold War era. Starting out in the 1970s, it carried out attacks on Western targets in Turkey but hasn’t received much attention. The suicide bomber that carried out Friday’s attack was previously arrested in 1997 in connection with rocket attacks on a police station and a military officers’ club. He was released from prison after a hunger strike did severe damage to his brain. The group’s suicide attackers often have incurable diseases.

“Syria has provided a lot of facilities to this group, including camps, ammunition, etc. They had a really close relationship with Syrian intelligence,” said Nihat Ali Ozcan, a Turkish terrorism expert.

Ozcan also said that the Assad regime restored its links to the group after Turkey began harboring Syrian rebels. DHKP-C has organized pro-Assad rallies in Turkey and has used its agents, including some posing as journalists, to spread false rumors of Syrian refugees in Turkey committing murder and other misdeeds.

Turkey has arrested 85 DHKP-C members since January and charged 55 last week with planning to kill government officials and attack embassies. Some members are accused of sharing state secrets with Greece and Syria.

The DHKP-C has taken credit for the bombing and explicitly said it was in response to Turkey’s policy towards Assad. It claimed that “Syrian collaborationist looters are trained and armed on our [Turkish] land and are sent back to massacre Syrian people.” It stated that the U.S. is its number one enemy and Turkey was assisting its “imperialist” plans.

A DHKP-C splinter group called Acilciler, or "Urgent Ones," has about 500 members and operates from Syria under the name of the “Hatay Liberation Army.” Its leader, Mihrac Ural, is in Latakia. In the past, he has worked closely with the Kurdish Marxist terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has also received Syrian backing.

Iran reportedly hired DHKP-C in 2010 to stroke public unrest in Turkey in an attempt to stop the constitutional referendum. However, there should be skepticism towards this accusation. Iran praised the passing of the constitutional amendments, which made Turkey more democratic and strengthened the ability of the ruling Islamist party to push its agenda.

Henri Barkey, a former State Department official and professor, doubts that Syria contracted DHKP-C to carry out the bombing. He says the group is cultish and wouldn’t do the bidding of someone else. Assad’s involvement in a terrorist attack against a U.S. target could also backfire and stir up American support for the rebels and ASssad’s ouster.

It wouldn’t be out of character for Assad to sponsor a terrorist attack simply out of rage. After all, his thugs are known for deliberately targeting children, torturing political prisoners and all sorts of heinous crimes that would be unthinkable to any moral person. Secret documents published by Al-Arabiya indicate the regime was behind a fire at a mall in Qatar that killed 19 people, 13 of them children.

If Assad was behind this terrorist attack in Turkey, then it could mean that he’s decided to launch a wave of reprisal attacks against his enemies. The attempted transfer of anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah, foiled by Israel’s air strike last week, could be the result of such a decision.

One thing is certain. Assad isn’t kind to his enemies, and he doesn’t intend to leave power without being forced. And as he’s forced out, the temptation to use his terrorist proxies, intelligence service and weapons stockpiles to exact revenge may prove irresistible.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.