Report: Suspected bomber of Istanbul attack says she is the sister of a SNA commander

Report: Suspected bomber of Istanbul attack says she is the sister of a SNA commander
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In her testimony, Ahlam Albashir said she was arrested and threatened by the YPG executives, pro-government Sabah daily claimed

Ahlam Albashir, the suspected bomber of the Istanbul attack that left six people dead, allegedly said that she is the sister of a senior Syrian National Army (SNA) commander, Turkish pro-government Sabah newspaper reported.

Citing the 23-year-old Syrian woman’s testimony obtained, the newspaper claimed that Albashir said she was arrested by the Kurdish YPG executives of spying against them for the SNA. She also said the YPG has threatened her to harm her family, unless she cooperates, Sabah said.

SNA, formerly known as the Free Syrian Army, is a coalition of Turkey-backed armed Syrian rebel groups operating mainly in the north of the war-torn Syria, supporting Ankara in its fight against Kurdish groups.

A bomb attack on Nov.13 rocked Istanbul’s historical Istiklal Avenue in Taksim district, killing six and wounding 81 people. Turkish authorities accused Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), detaining dozens of suspects, including Ahlam Albashir that Ankara deems to be the person who left the bomb that caused the explosion.

While the PKK and the YPG denied involvement, Turkey in response launched airstrikes into Northern Syria and Northern Iraq on late Saturday, targeting PKK and YPG bases in the region.

In her testimony, Albashir said that her brother Mohammed was wounded during an ISIS (Islamic State) attack and has prosthetics in both legs, Sabah reported.

Albashir said she went to YPG-controlled Manbij with her sister Meryem in 2017 and senior YPG executives in Manbij arrested her of spying against the group for the SNA.

“I spent one month in prison in Manbij. After getting out of the prison, they took me to meet a man called Hadji, a senior in charge,” she said.

According to the newspaper, Albashir was threatened by the YPG executives of harming her brother and sister, unless she cooperates.

In her testimony, Albashir said she was sent to Taksim several times by Hadji and a man called Bilal, whom she claimed to have raped him, for recording videos of the area.

On the day of the incident, Bilal gave her a relaxing pill before they went to Taksim, Albashir said.

“He handed me a bag and said, ‘You go and I will come later.’ I got out of the car with the bag. I started walking towards the Istiklal Avenue. When I checked the bag, I saw food such as chips and cake. At the bottom there was a soft package. I was scared, I called 112 [Turkey’s emergency call center]. But I couldn't talk to the person who answered my call because I don't know Turkish. Meanwhile, Hadji called. He sent me a photo shoot of me from behind. ‘Leave the bag and then go. Someone else will come and get the bag,’ he said. I put the bag and left,” Albashir said, according to Sabah.

Officially established in 2017, the SNA took part in Turkey’s military offensives into the Northern Syria to combat Kurdish militants, that Ankara deems to be terrorists. The SNA is provided funding, training and military support by Turkey, according to several reports. The New York Times in 2019 said the SNA fighters are the employees of the Turkish state and have been on Ankara’s payroll since 2016. In September, journalist Mustafa Balbay, who was also a former member of the Turkish Parliament, said that Turkish government is providing the members of the SNA with a monthly wage of $500. The SNA also has been accused of committing war crimes during Turkish offensives.