Turkey says Syria security leak "villainous" as YouTube blocked

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday denounced as "villainous" the leaking of a recording of top security officials discussing possible military action in Syria to the video-sharing site YouTube.

Turkish authorities ordered a shutdown of the site.

Erdogan's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the posting, an audio file with photographs of the officials involved, a "declaration of war" - an apparent reference to an escalating power struggle between Erdogan and rivals.

The anonymous posting followed similar releases on social media in recent weeks that Erdogan has cast as a plot by his political enemies, particularly a Turkish Islamic cleric based in the United States, to unseat him ahead of March 30 elections.

But it took the campaign to a higher level, impinging on a highly sensitive top-level meeting of security officials.

"They even leaked a national security meeting," Erdogan said at a campaign rally. "This is villainous, this is dishonesty ...

Who are you serving by doing audio surveillance of such an important meeting?" Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the recording.

The account posted what it presented as a recording of intelligence chief Hakan Fidan discussing possible military operations in Syria with Davutoglu, Deputy Chief of military Staff Yasar Guler and other top officials.

Speaking to reporters in Kutahya, Davutoglu confirmed the meeting took place and said: "A cyber attack has been carried out against the Turkish Republic, our state and our valued nation. This is a clear declaration of war against the Turkish state and our nation." Turkish authorities said they had taken an "administrative measure" to impose a block on YouTube, a week after they blocked access to microblogging site Twitter.

Erdogan has been the target of a stream of anonymous internet postings suggesting his involvement in corruption. He denies the allegations and accuses a former ally, Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, of unleashing a campaign to undermine him ahead of Sunday's elections.

Gulen, who has a large network of followers in the police, denies any involvement in the postings and in police graft investigations impinging on Erdogan and his family. Erdogan denies graft allegations.

The foreign ministry said the recording was of a crisis management meeting to discuss threats stemming from clashes in Syria and that elements of the recording had been manipulated.

A source in Erdogan's office said the video sharing service was blocked as a precaution after the voice recordings created a"national security issue" and said it may lift the ban if YouTube agreed to remove the content.

Google said it was looking into reports that some users in Turkey were unable to access its video-sharing site YouTube, saying there was no technical problem on its side.

The ban on Twitter had already sparked outrage in Turkey and drawn international condemnation. Shortly after the YouTube move, the hashtag #YoutubeBlockedinTurkey was trending globally, although some users defended the latest government decision given the sensitive nature of the recordings.