On May 30, the Turkish media reported that 12 individuals from the al Qaeda-linked Al Nusrah Front had been captured in antiterror operations in Adana, along with a total of two kilos (4,5 lb) of sarin gas. Five of the 12 suspects were later released; the interrogation of the other seven is ongoing.
The antiterrorism operations were prompted after the attacks on May 11, during which twin car bomb explosions killed over 50 people and injured hundreds of Turkish citizens in Reyhanli, a city near the Syrian border where many Syrian refugees have sought refuge. The Reyhanli attack was the largest terrorist attack in Turkey since the 2003 al Qaeda attacks in Istanbul.
While Adana mayor Hüseyin Avni Cos denied that the suspects were captured with sarin gas and warned against labeling them as part of any terror organization, the Turkish mainstream dailies Sabah and Milliyet are reporting today that the suspects were in fact members of the al Qaeda-linked Al Nusrah Front and were captured with sarin gas. Sabah reports that they were planning attacks on the Incirlik Air Base in Adana and in Gaziantep, a city near Turkey’s border with Syria. Turkish security units have also allegedly received intelligence that three bomb-laden vehicles have entered Turkey from Syria and are planning attacks even larger than the previous one in Reyhanli, and authorities are now on high alert.
According to another daily, Radikal, however, the suspects said that they planned to take the materials back to the conflict areas in Syria.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked Ankara for detailed information about the allegations of seizure of chemicals during the operations.
Sarin is considered a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations. Both the Syrian regime and the rebels have accused the other party of using chemical weapons.
If it is true that the al Qaeda operatives were planning an attack against the Incirlik Base in Adana, this would not be the first time. Al Qaeda has plotted attacks against many US targets in the past, including the İncirlik Base in Adana in 2003; a foiled attack on the NATO summit in Istanbul in May 2004 which was to be attended by then-President George W. Bush; and an attack on the US Consulate in Istanbul in July 2008, which killed three policemen. In July 2011, an attack on the US Embassy in Ankara was thwarted just before then-Secretary of State Clinton’s visit. As recently as April 2013, Turkish police found evidence of a new al Qaeda plot to bomb the US Embassy in Ankara.