In an unusual development, al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) slammed Turkey for calling it a “terrorist group” in a recent statement.
On February 24, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense said in a statement that it had arrested nine people who tried to cross illegally into Turkey from the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib, which is controlled by HTS.
The ministry said that at least two of the captives were members of the “terrorist”group – HTS. The two men were handed over to the Police Department in Reyhanlı city.
The Turkish statement was later slammed by Taqi al-Din al-Omar, HTS public affairs official, who denied that any of the captives were members of the group.
“We condemn what was said by the Turkish Ministry of National Defense against a Sunni entity that preserves the security and safety of a large segment of the Syrian people in the liberated areas,” al-Omar said.
The official went one to claim that HTS is an “independent entity,” a “key part of the Syrian revolution” and the “defender of liberated areas.”
In August of 2018, Turkey designated HTS as a terrorist organization. Despite this, Ankara went on to deploy thousands of heavily-armed troops in Greater Idlib to defend the group and other terrorist formations.
HTS’s statement indicates that Turkey has a limited influence over the terrorist group, which continues to take advantage of Ankara’s unlimited support to further its own interests in northwestern Syria.
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