By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut 14 Apr 201
Telegraph facilitated an attack carried out by Islamist fighters against the Armenian town of Kasab inside Syria, eyewitnesses have told the Telegraph.
According to the report, in an operation that was months in the planning, the Turkish authorities gave rebel groups the mandate they needed to attack, allowing them access through a heavily militarized Turkish border post, whose location was strategically vital to the success of the assault.
“Turkey did us a big favor,” said a Syrian activist with the rebel group said. “They allowed our guys to enter from their border post. “We needed to hit the regime from different sides and this was the only way from near the coast, so it was a big help.”
Kasab is the ancestral home of the Armenian ethnic minority in Syria, and had remained relatively sheltered from the conflict in Syria.
Residents were woken on the morning of the attack, on March 21, to screams and cries.
“We woke to the sounds of the shelling. There was no time even to get dressed,” remembered Bedros, 45, an Armenian resident who asked not to be identified by his real name. “I grabbed my wife and my children. We had no time to take our things. Some people fled in their night gowns.”
Two days later Kasab was in the hands of an alliance of Islamist groups, including the jihadist Jabhat al-Nusra, aligned with al-Qaeda. Almost all of the village’s approximately 2,000 inhabitants had fled.
On the night of the attack, a relative of Bedros had gone to one of the main border posts with Turkey, which is only lightly armed with Syrian troops, reportedly because of an agreement signed decades before the war.
“By the time he arrived the attack had begun. He saw the Islamist fighters standing with the Turkish army. They started launching their shells from the border,” he said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has issued a statement stating that the claims that the government aided the opposition in the attack are “totally unfounded and untrue.”