Last updated: 19 January, 2014

Turkey briefly stops suspicious trucks near Syria border

Turkish security forces on Sunday stopped and searched seven trucks near the Syrian border suspected to be loaded with weapons — but let them go when they discovered Turkish intelligence personnel on board, according to media and officials.

Local media reported that a big contingent of security officers stopped the trucks and briefly detained three of the drivers.

However the local governor’s office later issued a statement saying all personnel on the vehicles belonged to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and were on duty. They and the vehicles were released.

“The material in the truck is nobody’s business,” a spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, Huseyin Celik, said on CNN-Turk television.

“No one can do random searches. If a prosecutor does something wrong, he will be accountable,” he said.

The operation came just days after Turkish police carried out multi-city raids against Al-Qaeda suspects accused of helping radical fighters in Syria.

The Turkish government itself has been accused by Western powers of shipping arms to rebels and turning a blind eye to militants crossing the border to fight in Syria, claims it has repeatedly denied.

Three weeks ago, security forces stopped a truck on the Syrian border suspected to have been carrying weapons and ammunition on behalf of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a charity linked to the government.

The IHH dismissed the claims as an attempt to discredit the organisation, while media reports said that convoy, too, had been accompanied by MIT agents.

The prosecutor and the security forces carrying out the search had been subsequently removed from their posts.

Police last Tuesday detained 25 suspects including two reported top Al-Qaeda operatives and an IHH staff member suspected of a variety of offences including sending fighters to Syria and raising money for Syrian rebels.

Turkey is a staunch opponent of the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and hosts the exiled opposition but has denied shipping weapons to the rebels.

However, in December, Turkish media — quoting UN and government documents — reported that the country had shipped 47 tonnes of arms to the rebels since June last year.