Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on Friday said authorities have detained 1,065 suspects and arrested 28 of them after riots across Türkiye over the alleged sexual abuse of a child by a Syrian man in the central city of Kayseri.

Properties and vehicles owned by Syrians were vandalized and set on fire in Kayseri last Sunday, stoked by social media reports that a Syrian man had sexually abused a female child relative.

The violence spread to the provinces of Hatay, Gaziantep, Konya, Bursa and an Istanbul district, Türkiye’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) said in a statement. There were social media reports of some injuries among Syrians.

Yerlikaya said 855 people were detained involved in attacks targeting the Syrian community in Kayseri and 13 of these were arrested while 145 were released under judicial control.

“Some 468 of these detainees had criminal records on 50 different accounts, including migrants smuggling, intentional injuries, theft, looting, sexual abuse and blackmail,” Yerlikaya told reporters at a press briefing in Kayseri.

He said most suspects detained across Türkiye were still in processing.

“There is a provocative trend on especially social media platforms about migrants,” the minister said. “Bot accounts are sharing manipulative, negative and untrue posts.”

Pointing out that the rate of such bot accounts was over 68%, the highest he’s seen since taking over the ministry in June last year, Yerlikaya said the cybercrime department found 189 users, six of whom based abroad, who were spreading disinformation so far.

“They caught 108 suspects regarding this and arrested 12 of them” he informed.

The attacks on Syrian refugees in Türkiye triggered anti-Turkish protests in several towns in the opposition-held northwest Syria, an area where Türkiye maintains thousands of troops backing opposition forces and fighting against the PKK/YPG terrorist group.

Both Ankara and the Syrian opposition denounced the incidents and their “provocateurs” and shared messages of unity while calling for restraint in both countries.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blamed the “poisonous rhetoric” of the opposition as “one of the reasons” for the violence, which he said was “unacceptable.”

“We get nowhere by stoking xenophobia and anti-refugee hatred among the public,” Erdoğan said.

Parties like the far-right Victory Party (ZP) have been at the forefront of anti-Syrian sentiment in the country since it was founded in 2021. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), too, campaigned heavily around sending Syrians back home ahead of the May 2023 general elections.

Türkiye is home to at least 3.6 million Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in 2012, most of whom are under temporary protection status.

Growing far-right anti-refugee sentiments have increased the risk of violence against immigrants in Türkiye in recent years, where many refugees have been subjected to attacks in various towns across the country upon rumors they were involved in cases of rape or murders against the local population.

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