Archive for February 26th, 2016

Turkey: Syrian man behind deadly Ankara car bomb attack

February 18, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Syrian national with links to Syrian Kurdish militia carried out the suicide bombing in Ankara that targeted military personnel and killed at least 28 people, Turkey’s prime minister said Thursday.

Turkey’s Kurdish rebels collaborated with the Syrian man to carry out Wednesday’s attack, Ahmet Davutoglu said during a news conference. “The attack was carried out by the PKK together with a person who sneaked into Turkey from Syria,” Davutoglu said, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK.

Authorities have detained nine people in connection with the attack, he said. Turkey’s military, meanwhile, said its jets conducted cross-border raids against Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq, hours after the Ankara attack, striking at a group of about 60-70 rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The car bomb went off late Wednesday in Turkey’s capital during evening rush hour. It exploded near buses carrying military personnel that had stopped at traffic lights, in an area close to parliament and armed forces headquarters and lodgings. The blast was the second deadly bombing in Ankara in four months.

Davutoglu confirmed earlier news reports that said the attacker was Syrian. Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the government, said the assailant who detonated the car bomb near the military buses in an apparent suicide attack had been registered as a refugee in Turkey and was identified from his fingerprints.

Pro-government Sabah newspaper said the man was linked to the PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy for Kurds in Turkey’s southeast region. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which killed military personnel and civilians, although suspicion had immediately fallen on the PKK or the Islamic State group. In October, suicide bombings blamed on IS targeted a peace rally outside the main train station in Ankara, killing 102 people in Turkey’s deadliest attack in years.

The attack drew international condemnation and Turkish leaders have vowed to find those responsible and to retaliate against them with force. The military said Thursday that Turkish jets attacked PKK positions in northern Iraq’s Haftanin region, hitting the group of rebels which it said included a number of senior PKK leaders. The claim couldn’t be verified.

Turkey’s air force has been striking PKK positions in northern Iraq since a fragile two-and-a-half year-old peace process with the group collapsed in July, reigniting a fierce three-decade old conflict.

“Our determination to retaliate to attacks that aim against our unity, togetherness and future grows stronger with every action,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday. “It must be known that Turkey will not refrain from using its right to self-defense at all times.”

The attack came at a tense time when the Turkish government is facing an array of challenges. Hundreds of people have been killed in renewed fighting following the collapse of the peace process and tens of thousands have been displaced.

Turkey has also been helping efforts led by the U.S. to combat the Islamic State group in neighboring Syria, and has faced several deadly bombings in the last year that were blamed on IS. The Syrian war is raging along Turkey’s southern border. Recent airstrikes by Russian and Syrian forces have prompted tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to flee to Turkey’s border.

For Syrian migrant, German classes, visa usher in a new life

February 23, 2016

SAARLOUIS, Germany (AP) — Der, die, das: Little words that are the ticket to a new life. Mohammed al-Haj, a Syrian migrant whose journey across Eastern Europe to Germany last summer was documented by The Associated Press, has finished his first German language course and is getting ready for his second one. The feat, together with his recently granted three-year German residency permit, sets the 27-year-old up for a new life in his adopted home.

A native of Aleppo, Syria’s one-time economic capital that now lies in ruins, al-Haj came to the western German state of Saarland in September to benefit from its swift processing of migrants. He has since shown a healthy zeal to adapt.

In November, he accepted an offer by local authorities to take voluntary German classes. He begins mandatory German language classes in April, seeking a proficiency that will allow him to study in Germany.

“Honestly, it was worth the risk,” he said of his perilous, two-week journey from Turkey to Greece and across the Balkans to Germany. “The conditions in Germany are very good, at least here in my state. It was worth the risk to build a future here.”

Al-Haj has lived in a private home with three other Syrian asylum-seekers since October. His rent is paid by the local government and he receives a monthly stipend of 330 euros ($368) for food and other expenses.

“I manage, but I cannot go to many places because transport is costly,” he said. Al-Haj says he can get his point across in halting German, but he hopes eventually to be good enough to enroll at a German university to study media and business administration.

“Without knowing the German language, they (migrants) have no chance in Germany,” said Franca Cipriano, director of the Tertia German language school in Saarlouis where al-Haj took his classes. “If they want to work, they have to know the language. If they want to get citizenship in Germany and have a German passport, they have to pass a test about civic education and a language test. So without knowing the language, it is impossible.”

Al-Haj was about to start a degree in Arabic literature at Aleppo when the war broke out in 2011, and he had to shelve his dream to work to support his family. His decision to join the over 1 million Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others making the often-perilous, smuggler-filled journey to western Europe last year came after his student visa application to study in Germany was turned down. At the time, he told The AP he had no choice. Returning to Syria was not an option — he was convinced the war would only get worse.

He still doesn’t see any hope of going back in the near future. “I don’t know what may become of Syria,” he said. “I don’t expect to visit home in the next three years.”