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Turkey: Bin Laden Death Met With Cautious Optimism

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By Alakbar Raufoglu

News that al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden had finally died at the hands of US Navy Seals brought satisfaction, political leaders say, but the fight is far from over.

“There is no doubt that the killing of the world’s most dangerous person is a victory for justice, but that does not mean the terrorists will quit attacking,” Burhan Kayaturk, president of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s Political Academy in Ankara, told SETimes.

Turkey
Turkey

“Our government, as always, has stood against terrorism and does everything possible to prevent creation of ‘new Osamas’, but other governments should take their responsibility as well,” he said, adding that the crises in countries such as Libya and Syria could bring new dangers for the region.

Turks are all too familiar with terrorist violence. In November 2003, al-Qaeda carried out a succession of truck bombings — targeting the British Consulate, the Turkish headquarters of HSBC bank and two synagogues. Fifty-seven people died and hundreds were wounded. Just recently, Turkish anti-terror police arrested a number of suspected terrorists, including alleged al-Qaeda members.

“We are a country that faces the threat of terrorism every day and we know what it is,” Ismal Goksel, AKP secretary at the parliamentary National Security Commission, told SETimes.

Zekeriya Akıncı, a Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) deputy on the National Security Commission, says al-Qaeda has posed an ongoing threat to Turkey, as have other extremist organisations. “As a nation that lost tens of thousands to terrorism, we are pleased that bin Laden is dead,” he told SETimes.

But the killing raises anxieties as well. According to Sukru Elekdag, a veteran Turkish diplomat and CHP MP, in the short term it can be expected that bin Laden’s death will trigger reprisals from his supporters.

“Jihadists around the world will seek revenge by hitting any target that will appear convenient. They are now particularly under the pressure to demonstrate their organization is unexpired and alive,” he told SETimes.

Religious leaders can help avert such threats by condemning al-Qaeda and its ideology, particularly its use of Islam to justify violence, Elekdag said. “In the Muslim world most people consider that al-Qaeda’s religious concept abuses the religion of Islam,” he said.

According to Suleyman Ozeren, director of the Ankara-based International Terrorism and Transnational Crime Research Centre, the caution expressed by Turkish officials is due to ongoing, domestic threats.

The country continues to endure attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant group that has been waging an armed struggle for Kurdish independence since 1978. Just last week, the PKK claimed responsibility for an ambush against Prime Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s motorcade. Erdogan was not hurt, but a police officer died.

“All forms of terrorism must be criticised,” Akinci said, denouncing the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) for not disassociating itself from the PKK.

Speaking to SETimes, however, BDP parliamentary group member Hasip Kaplan insisted that his party opposes terrorist violence. But politicians just don’t want to admit it, he added.

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SETimes

The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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