Turkish police confirm ISIS sleeper cells in Turkey
Monitoring Desk: Turkish police confirm ISIS sleeper cells in Turkey and Independent Turkish media is indicating that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is present at least in four provinces of the country bordering Syria.
According to Zaman Today newspaper, the independent Media is holding Turkish government responsible for increasing terrorism within the country claiming that the police and intelligence departments have been ruined by the government and these departments are unable to fight simple crimes while terrorism is out of their control.
A recently revealed official document belonging to the National Police Department clearly reveals that major negligence and an intelligence failure were the main reasons behind a recent deadly bombing, which cost the lives of 32 people in the southeastern town of Suruç on Monday. According to the document, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), summoned the organization’s militants in countries other than Turkey to join the fight, while instructing those in Turkey to remain as long as they offer logistics help to those coming from other countries to pass to Syria and Iraq where ISIL is leading a fight. Police document indicates that ISIS chief Baghdadi believes that Turkey serves as a passageway for his members.
The document, which says Baghdadi told Islamic State members they (ISIS) would trespass Turkey’s borders as Turkey had trespassed theirs.
According to Atilla Kart, a former deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the deadly attack is basically the result of a failure in intelligence. Kart links the failure to the transformation of Turkey’s intelligence agency to one serving the interests of the ruling party, and to the huge shake-up the police department has been given by the government following two major graft probes.
Negligence by the government emerges as a major factor in the bloody bombing, given that there were many previous indications that ISIL had terrorist cells in Turkish provinces along the Syrian border.
Turkish independent media said that the bombing came after several others in areas near Syria, such as the one in Diyarbakır, another predominantly Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey. Four people lost their lives in two bomb blasts in early June in Diyarbakır. It was claimed following the attack, which took place just before the beginning of an election rally by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), that a suspect arrested in relation to the attack had been taken off technical surveillance by the police the day the attack occurred.
The purge in the police department following the corruption probes that went public in December of 2013 has paved the way, many have said, for some inexperienced police officers to be posted in critical units such as intelligence and anti-terrorism.
It has emerged that police in many provinces, including İstanbul, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep, have done nothing to investigate tips pertaining to militant cells of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the past.
The purging of police officers who once formed the backbone of Turkey’s counterterrorism units is being criticized as the primary reason behind the intelligence failure that led to the attacks.
The mass firing and reassignment of seasoned officers has widely been regarded as one effect of a vendetta held by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) against law enforcement, following two huge corruption probes that went public in December 2013 and incriminated members of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Cabinet, businessmen close to the administration and even members of Erdoğan’s family.
The purges have been campaigns to rid the police force of those considered to be part of the “parallel structure,” a term invented by Erdoğan and his associates within the AK Party to refer to followers of the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, a faith-based social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
The effects of these purges have been felt most strongly in the provinces of İstanbul, Şanlıurfa and Diyarbakır, provinces where ISIL militants are said to have a heavy presence. Especially in the past year, the majority of the reassignments of high-ranking police officers took place in the districts of Lice in Diyarbakir province, Cizre in Şırnak province, and Suruç, Viranşehir and Ceylanpınar in Şanlıurfa province.
In one example, it has been revealed that a high-ranking police chief and head of the police intelligence bureau responsible for the whole of Şanlıurfa province, where the suicide attack took place, is also temporarily assuming other posts within the agency.
In addition to being the head of the Şanlıurfa Police Intelligence Bureau, Rüştü Yılmaz holds the posts of chief of the Riot Police Units, chief of the Counterterrorism Unit and deputy chief of the Security Bureau.
It has also emerged that the İstanbul Counterterrorism Unit, which normally has 700 officers working when at full capacity, had only four officers on duty during the Eid al-Fitr break after the holy month of Ramadan.
If there had been any acts of terrorism in İstanbul over Eid, only four officers would have been able to respond to the situation in a city with over 15 million residents.
The intelligence unit in Siirt province, which is normally run by 250 high-ranking officers, is currently under the stewardship of only a single officer.