Turkey denies reports of intelligence officers arrested in Syria

Turkish-Syrian borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Turkish government has denied reports in the Israeli media that dozens of Turkish intelligence officers have been arrested and are under interrogation in neighboring Syria. Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported over the weekend that at least 40 Turkish intelligence officers had been captured by the Syrian military and were being questioned. The paper also claimed that Syrian military interrogators had extracted “confessions” from the captured Turkish officers, according to which they were operating on instructions to “carry out bombings” in Syria, and other operations aimed to “undermine the country’s security”. Citing Syrian sources, Ha’aretz also said that the Turkish intelligence officers “admitted” having been trained by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, and that the Mossad also trains members of the opposition Free Syrian Army. The Israeli daily also said that Ankara and Damascus have been involved in “intensive negotiations” over the fate of the 40 Turkish intelligence officers. According to Ha’aretz, Syria has offered to release the Turks, providing Ankara extradites scores of Syrian defectors —most of them from the military— who have been given political asylum in Turkey during the past few months. Damascus reportedly also insists that Turkey takes immediate steps to prevent the smuggling of weapons and military supplies to the Free Syrian Army through its territory. But in a brief press statement on Monday, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that the report in Ha’aretz was “incorrect”. Turkish newspaper Zaman also quoted anonymous Turkish intelligence sources who flatly refuted the reports from Israel. The Turkish denials come less than a week after it emerged that an employee of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) was arrested for orchestrating the abduction of Colonel Hüseyin Mustafa Harmuş, one of the most senior Syrian military officials to have defected to the opposition, and the founder of the Free Syrian Army. Harmuş, who defected from the Syrian military in June of 2011, had crossed the border into Turkey and was living in a camp set up and supervised by the Turkish government. Harmuş was executed last week, after the Turkish MİT officer surrendered him to the Syrian government in exchange for a $100,000 reward.

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