Syria bans Turks from its private schools

March 26, 2004

Syria has banned Turkish students who want to study religion from its private schools as part of a crackdown on radical Islamic groups in the aftermath of last November's al-Qaida suicide attacks in Istanbul.

Turkish students will now be restricted to the faculty of Islamic law at Damascus University.

The Turkish military called for the ban at a meeting with its counterparts in Damascus last December.

Sener Eruygur, a Turkish general, said: "We are asking Syria not to accept students from Turkey to study religion at their private schools because some of these students have become involved with fundamentalists and terrorist actions."

Three Turks studying in Damascus are accused of being involved in the bombing of two synagogues and the British consulate in Istanbul in which more than 60 people were killed and 800 were wounded. The attacks were masterminded by a radical Turkish Islamic group linked to al-Qaida.

According to a European intelligence source, Syria was used as a base by some of those involved. The three accused were among 23 Turkish students in Syria who were extradited as part of Turkish investigations into the attack.

Salah Kaftaro, director of the Ebu Nur Foundation, which runs a certified programme in Islamic philosophy in Damascus, said he expected the ban on Turkish students to be extended to all foreign students.

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