Ankara (GPA) – New clashes have exploded in Al-Bab following a double car-bombing on Saturday in an area administered by Turkish proxies.
Tensions have flared up in the Aleppo governate again in the northern Syrian city of Al-Bab following a double bombing of a taxi stand and bus terminal. As of this report, according to the Turkish government and media, there are an estimated 19 dead and over 30 injured as a result.
While the first reports of the bombings came via Al-Bab residents’ social media accounts, but CCTV footage was later provided by Turkish-backed rebel groups. Groups including Sham Legion and other groups under the auspices of Turkey published the video on Telegram channels, suggesting the area was administered by the larger umbrella of the Syrian National Army (SNA).
The SNA – which is the latest embodiment of surviving elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – the long-time general name for a host of western proxies – have primarily been absorbed under one tent in the northern parts of Syria where Turkey has the most access to arm and fund these groups. Al-Bab itself is also under direct Turkish occupation in some areas following Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in late 2016 which saw Ankara backing FSA ground forces and later striking a deal with Russia for Turkish armed forces to occupy observation posts to monitor “de-confliction zones” around Idlib.
These rebels have spent the last week primarily fighting the actual state forces of Syria – the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) – primarily with rocket and artillery attacks on their positions in the countryside around Al-Bab and Idlib.
However, in these areas, Turkish-backed forces not only fight both parts of the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the SAA but also act as an occupation force on behalf of Turkey. Beyond fighting, Turkish-backed rebels have also taken up civic roles in Al-Bab including schooling, mail service and regular policing.
In the location of Saturday’s bombing, these terror-groups-turned-police have turned out to be the ones who have ended up leading the “investigation.” Since these groups essentially work for Turkey it should then come as no surprise that the Turkish-backed rebel “detectives” quickly determined not only who the perpetrator was but also that the Al-Bab bombing was planned by members of a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that Turkish media claims are based in the city of Manbij, which is east of Al-Bab and also the location of fighting between the SNA and SDF (and now the SAA following the choice by Washington to have Turkey take over the occupation of northern Syria and Damascus pledging to protect areas under SNA assault).
On Sunday, following the arrest of the bombing suspect clashes soon broke out in the streets of Al-Bab after crowds outraged over the incident began demanding for the man in custody to be executed. Protesters hurled bricks at the “police station” in Al-Bab although it is unclear on who most locals blame for the attack but the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claims the man was actually a former Islamic State (IS) member and had no connection to the SDF, PKK, YPG or any other wing of Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
The SOHR also alleges that one demonstrator was killed on Sunday when the Al-Bab “police” fired a warning shot and then into the crowd.
While the PKK, other Kurdish separatist groups, or even IS have yet to claim responsibility for the attack, this move by Turkey to further incite nationalist-backlash at home will likely only embolden Ankara to continue supporting atrocities in northern Syria. Regardless of who is guilty, Turkish authorities – and by extension, the media – have made up their mind that this is yet another attack that can be blamed on the PKK and Kurds more broadly.