Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu responded to the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, accusing the publication of spying after it published images of arms that allegedly belonged to the National Intelligence Service (MIT).
Erdogan attended the celebration of the 562nd anniversary of Istanbul’s conquest on Saturday where he addressed the images allegedly showing intelligence agents delivering arms to Syrian rebel groups.
"They interrupted the [humanitarian]assistance we were delivering to our brothers [Syrian Turkmens] in Syria and risked their lives," Erdogan said.
"Without any shame, they speculated about the assistance we were sending to Bayır Bucak Turkmens [Turkmens in the Bayir Bucak region in northern Syrian province of Latakia]. This is spying. They will be accountable for this action," he added.
In January 2014, several trucks of MIT were stopped by local gendarmerie in the southern Adana and Hatay provinces on grounds that they were loaded with ammunition, despite a national security law forbidding such a search. The case saw the arrest of 26 soldiers.
Cumhuriyet now faces an anti-terrorism probe launched by prosecutors after the images and the footage was published on Friday.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, also commenting on the alleged photos, said “This is spying. Turkey protected the Bayir Bucak Turkmens. I say without any doubt that those trucks were going to Bayir Bucak Turkmens who were victims of Assad [regime] in Syria. We could not stay silent while our Turkmen, Arab and Kurdish brothers were being slaughtered.”
Turkey's Interior Ministry at the time said that the trucks were conveying humanitarian aid to the Turkmen community in the war-torn country.
On Friday, the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet published alleged leaked MIT images and a footage showing ammunition hidden in boxes, claiming that were sent to Syrian opposition forces by the Turkish Intelligence Service.
The images and short video footage show ammunition in a box that are opened by individuals whose faces are not visible in an unknown location.
Similar images and footage were published by Turkish left-wing daily Aydinlik on Jan. 2014 with a headline that said, “Cannons, not pipe” suggesting the images were evidence to the allegations that MIT sent weapons to several groups fighting in Syria.
In the meantime, Turkey is also currently serving as a host site to train 5,000 allied Syrian opposition fighters as part of a US-led “train and equip” programme.