Rise of al-Qaeda in Syria threatens Turkey security

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The rise of al-Qaeda-linked militants in northern Syria has left Turkey with a new security threat and raised serious speculations about Ankara's policy towards the crisis in the Arab country. The Turkish military said on Wednesday that it had fired artillery at targets belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria in retaliation for a mortar shell that hit an area closed to a Turkish military post on the border. This is the first time for Turkey to get engaged in such an attack. Ankara has long championed robust backing for Syria's militants. It has maintained an open door policy, providing a lifeline to militant-held areas by allowing them to organize on its soil. But with the armed groups such as al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking control of some areas in the northern parts of Syria in recent weeks, it appears that Ankara's strategy must have been a miscalculation. Earlier this month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad echoed similar concerns in an interview with Turkey's Halk TV, warning that Ankara will pay the price for supporting militants, as they would eventually turn against their host. "It is not possible to use terrorism as a card and put it in your pocket because it is like a scorpion which won't hesitate to sting you at any moment," Assad said, adding, "In the near future, these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey. And Turkey will pay very dearly for its contribution." Turkey has a 900-km border with Syria. Militants have been able to infiltrate into the Arab country undetected in remote areas, by passing the main crossing points. Observers say with Syria army progressing to the north, Ankara has no way but to close its border and rethink its policy towards Syria. Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.

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