This week a rocket struck a school in the Turkish province of Kilis, a southeastern area that borders Syria. The explosion killed a janitor and wounded three others, including a female pupil. The attack occurred at the Eyüp Göce Imam Middle School.
The Daily Sabah reports that state authorities do not interpret the incident as a terrorist attack. “No person or institution was targeted; it was only a stray missile,” the Kilis Governor, Salesman Tapsiz, confirmed. The rogue missile came as clashes escalate between different groups on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. Intelligence indicates that the rocket came from positions held by the international terrorist network ISIL.
The governor alerted Turkish border units, which launched retaliation shots into the area from where the missile emerged. Military sources said that the rocket came from a Katyusha launcher, a piece of military hardware developed by the Soviet Union that is commonplace in the inventories of the Iraqi and Syrian armed forces. The Hürriyet Daily News, the oldest English-language daily in Turkey, reports that Turkish border forces reportedly destroyed the launcher that sent the rocket into Turkish territory.
Since the new year began, Turkey has experienced an uptick in violent incidents that have emanated from Syria. Last week, a radical militant loyal to ISIL, who had entered Turkey from Syria claiming refugee status, set off a bomb on Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square that killed ten German tourists. The Turkish government retaliated by destroying over 200 of ISIL targets.
The rogue missile in Kilis and the coordinated attacks in Istanbul were only the latest iterations of a string of attacks that have rocked Turkey since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war six years ago. In October, twin suicide bombers staged the deadliest single act of terrorism to occur on Turkish soil, killing 102 people in the state capital of Ankara — and these attacks were preceded by a suicide bombing, which happened in the southeast province of Sanliurfa, that killed 32 people in July.
An official from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Semigh Yalcun, said that the attack on the school was part of a larger plan to destabilize Turkey. “This attack was perpetrated as a small part of a larger plan designed by global forces. Their ultimate goal is to tear down the country of Turkey,” he said.
Turkish border towns, like the one in Kilis, are particularly vulnerable to civilian casualties and unexpected tragedies given their proximity to areas overrun by ISIL and lawless territory in Syria. According to Today’s Zaman, an English-language daily based in Turkey, the Turkish government detained ten members of ISIL after trying to enter Turkey in Kilis from Syria. Six of those captured were foreign-born while four of them were Turkish citizens. Turkey has faced international criticism for not doing enough to stem the tide of militants flowing across its borders and for not doing enough to counter the threat of homegrown radicalism.
Unfortunately, as hostilities between warring factions in Syria intensify, there are no signs analysts can point to that might portend a reduction in these violent episodes.