Panagiotis Vasilias

Panagiotis Vasilias

Associate Analyst

22/09/2017

22/09/2017

Turkey Intelligence Report

Period: Monday September, 4th 2017 - Monday September 18th, 2017
This report will present and examine the significance of major security incidents that occurred in Turkey from September 4th, 2017 to September 18th, 2017. The incidents are arranged in the following categories: Terrorism (PKK, Islamic State, FETÖ, Left Wing Groups), Narcotics and Illegal Migration. The major incidents from each category are presented in detail followed by a text providing the current and future implications on Turkey’s security environment of the corresponding issue.
Terrorism, Narcotics and Illegal Migration in Turkey
Key Findings:
The Turkish Armed Forces are able to conduct successful air operations against PKK insurgents in the Southeast Provinces but they have limited ground control of those mountainous areas.
Turkey's social micro-environments composed of Syrian nationals are highly inaccessible to Turkish counter-terrorism forces and are potential hubs of Islamic extremists.
The drugs produced or smuggled in the Southeast Provinces are being channelled to large urban centres in Turkey or across the border to Iraq and Syria.
Human smugglers operate at large within Turkey and Turkish authorities are intercepting human trafficking only in its final stages.
Introduction
Turkish Armed Forces continued their ground and air operations against the terrorism fronts of PKK, Islamic State, FETÖ and Left wing groups throughout the country in urban and rural environments. Most of the operations concluded successfully with a high number of killings and arrests of people directly involved or collaborating with terrorist organizations. Large scale counter narcotics operations were launched in populous urban centers with extensive stop-and-search checks of vehicles and drug suspects, and multiple facility raids resulting in numerous detentions. The Turkish Coast Guard and local Gendarmerie personnel intercepted human smuggling activities mostly in the West and North-West regions of Turkey bordering Greece and Bulgaria.
The following chart shows the results of the security operations conducted in Turkey.
Terrorism
Summary
During the domestic counter terrorism operations 68 terrorists were killed (67 PKK, 1 Islamic State), 9 were captured alive and 26 surrendered. Total: 103
The following weaponry was seized:
PKK/KCK
Summary
A number of IEDs were found prior to detonation during search and patrol activities of military units. The IEDs and mines were either found armed and buried at the side of military vehicle routes (Şırnak and Hakkari Provinces) or in caves (Bingöl and Şanlıurfa Provinces). Explosive material used in IEDs were found as well. Alongside IED detonations against passing military vehicles, PKK insurgents launched surprise attacks with mortars and heavy weapons against either military posts or remote, military related construction sites and managed to kill and injure military personnel. After all PKK attacks the Turkish military launched counter ground and air operations to locate and neutralize the insurgents. The Turkish Air Force conducted large scale surveillance and attack operations with F-16s and T129 ATAK helicopters against fixed PKK locations and neutralized many of them and their shelters/cave hideouts.
PKK Major Incidents
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The Gendarmerie Special Operations (JÖH), the Police Special Operations Department (PÖH), and the Turkish Armed Forces Air and Ground Units arrested 220 people accused of belonging to and collaborating with PKK/KCK. 67 PKK insurgents were killed during the operations.
The PKK insurgents were killed, captured alive or surrendered at the following locations:
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Major incident
PKK VBIED explodes at the Duru Gendarmerie Military Post - Diyarbakir
10/09/2017, 06:00 am. A PKK VBIED exploded at the Duru Gendarmerie Military Post, 15 kilometers west from Diyarbakir's Lice district. The Gendarmerie forces opened fire when the PKK insurgent ignored their 'STOP' calls. The car hit the concrete barriers placed around the post and exploded. The VBIED driver was killed and one soldier was slightly injured.
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After having received intelligence for an upcoming attack at the Duru Gendarmerie Station, the personnel have taken enhanced security measures. Gerdanmerie forces have rerouted the Diyarbakır-Bingöl Highway and have placed concrete obstacles to prevent vehicles from coming close to the military post’s entrance. Diyarbakir’s Governor reported that after the explosion a 11 meters wide and 5.2 meters deep pit was created. A soldier in the tower guard post was slightly injured. The explosion occurred 75 meters away from the Gerdanmerie Station entrance.
Turkish Geography and PKK
The Turkish Armed Forces are able to conduct successful air assisted operations against PKK insurgents in the Southeast Provinces but they have limited ground control of those mountainous areas.
The incidents recorded in the Intelligence Fusion Database show that even though the Turkish Armed Forces operate constantly with all their means, on ground and air, PKK insurgents are able to launch attacks against military posts with either direct heavy fire, VBIEDs or road-placed IEDs.
PKK insurgents are using the harsh, mountainous terrain of the Southern Turkish Provinces to avoid capture and launch surprise attacks against Turkish military posts. They hide weaponry, ammunition and food supplies in caves and shelters as they spend long time periods hiding in the mountains. While remaining out of sight, they plan their attacks and they reveal their positions at the latest phase of their operation. Most of the Turkish military ground or air operations against PKK insurgents are conducted following drone surveillance missions using thermal, electro-optical, infrared imaging drones to locate not only the insurgents themselves but PKK-made terrain inconsistencies as well, used as shelters and supply storage. Turkish Special Forces conduct limited ground reconnaissance missions to the mountainous areas of South Turkey due to the high risk of being ambushed by PKK insurgents or fall victims of an IED detonation. Air assisted operations by F-16s and T129 ATAK helicopters is, at least for the time being, the most secure tactic the Turkish Forces can use to operate at this environment.
The following images help us understand better the operational environment of Southeast Turkey and specifically the geography of Kulp district of Diyarbakir and Güçlükonak District of Şırnak (the Alaca and Güçlükonak villages are marked on the images as locations targeted by the Turkish Air Force).
Islamic State
Turkish counter terrorism forces arrested 59 people accused of belonging to and collaborating with IS while 1 IS suicide bomber was killed when he attempted to approach the MIT Regional Office building in Mersin. In other locations there were several arrests of IS supporters who were involved in recruiting people to either travel to Syria or Iraq and join IS or plan attacks on Turkish soil. In Gaziantep, an IS supporter with extensive training in explosives, arms and suicide bombs was arrested.
Islamic State incidents
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Major incident
IS suicide bomber killed in Mersin's Yenişehir district
06/09/2017 09:30 am. A 19 year old Syrian man, IS supporter, was shot dead after ignoring the security’s warnings to 'STOP' when he attempted to approach the Police headquarters in Mersin's central Yenişehir district, next to the MIT Regional Office building. Explosives were found on his body which specialists defused.
Metal beads Explosives
The suicide bomber, Abdulkadir A., had two brothers who died during clashes in Syria. He settled in Mersin 3 years ago and was partially paralyzed from his left side. After the incident in Mersin police forces raided his house and detained his father Ahmet E. and mother accused of being IS sleeper cells. The 5 kg bomb had metal beads wrapped around it for maximum lethality.
Recruiters, explosive experts and suicide bombers present in Turkey
Turkey's local micro-environments composed of Syrian nationals are highly inaccessible to Turkish counter-terrorism forces and are potential hubs of Islamic extremists.
There is a constant presence of IS members in Turkey, each one of them assigned to a specific task. IS operatives based in Turkey not only recruit members for Turkish operations but they arrange their training and transfer to Syria’s battlefields. Most of the recruits of foreign nationality arrested are deported after a short period of detention and interrogation by the Turkish authorities. When back at their place of origin they will pass on their knowledge of networks and locations to other IS members, probably receive more training and are sent back to Turkey using the same routes they first arrived or develop their own distant communications with other Turkey based recruits or IS cells.
The suicide bomber killed in Mersin was a case of a young person wounded in Syria, with partial paralysis, had lost two brothers in Syria and was obviously intended to have revenge for all the above under his family’s encouragement. It is highly unlikely that his parents were responsible for the preparatory phases of the actual attempt to detonate his suicide vest at the Police headquarters in Mersin. Especially for the explosive acquisition and the suicide vest preparation since they both need special handling and knowledge. The person arrested in Gaziantep had extensive training in arms, explosives and suicide bombs in Syria and most likely he was assigned to either train other IS members or prepare himself suicide vests and other IEDs. The existence of IS members of such ‘specialized’ knowledge combined with the relatively easy access to explosive materials they have and the amount of IS supporters in Turkey raises highly the probability of an IS attack against a Turkish target.
The suicide bomber in Mersin, the explosive ‘expert’ arrested in Gaziantep, the 8 people arrested in Hatay and the three recruiters arrested in Istanbul have one thing in common besides their proven support for IS: Syria. They are all Syrians, have received training there, they were recruiting members to send back to Syria or to plot an attack against Turkey. The nearly three million Syrian refugees living in Turkey have created their own communities at certain locations such as the Fatih district of Istanbul, or ‘Little Syria’, with many businesses and shops. Setting aside the potential conflicts with the local Turkish population, the challenge for the Turkish security authorities is how to detect IS recruiting operations in such closed environments and how to develop a network of informants within the Syrian community so they will be able to receive information for radicalized individuals and continuously monitor them.
FETÖ/PDY
1225 people considered to be in contact with the FETÖ/PDY were taken into custody during operations throughout the country. Almost all of them were arrested for using the encrypted messaging app ByLock.
Major arrests of FETÖ Members
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Encrypted communications and Turkish Security
The Gülen movement is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey - Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure, in Turkish: Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü/Paralel Devlet Yapılanması (FETÖ/PDY) - and according to the Turkish State authorities is behind the July 15, 2016, failed coup in Turkey. Since then, 75,000 people have been arrested accused of downloading and using the encrypted messaging app ByLock which is considered by Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency MIT as the main tool of secret communication between FETÖ members. Judges, police officers, businessmen, lawyers, civil servants, army officers and soldiers, journalists and authors were among the ones arrested.
On March 1st, MİT sent a list of 122,000 users of the ByLock app to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and then to the Department of Organized Crime which will investigate if the people on that list have used the Bylock app. On September 7, MIT announced that IT specialists have managed to crack the ByLock algorithms and that 18 million messages have been decrypted already with 1 million messages left to be cracked containing critical information about the Gülen movement members’ intentions.
The Turkish authorities’ claims that FETÖ members chose such an amateur and easy to crack software to secretly communicate with each other and plot against Turkey mean that either FETÖ members did not even have the basic knowledge of operational security or that simply the ByLock app is a disguised justification for the crackdown on Erdoğan’s political opponents. Either way, FETÖ suspected members will continue to be targeted by MIT and almost certainly more arrests will follow since FETÖ is considered an established network in crucial state institutions which threatens the State security and has to be eradicated. Many FETÖ members have now changed to more secure ways of communication showing that the issues for the Turkish government are a) how to deal with FETÖ after the alleged ByLock lists of suspects are exhausted and b) how to avoid the use of publicly available end-to-end encrypted messaging apps being a tool for people plotting against Turkey.
Left-wing terrorist groups
60 people in contact with or linked to left-wing terrorist organizations were taken into custody.
Narcotics
Summary
According to the Turkish Interior Ministry 3.690 counter narcotics operations were conducted and the following drugs were found and seized: 4.073 kg Cannabis, 446 kg Heroin, 0,41 kg Cocaine, 4.05 kg Synthetic cannabinoid (Bonzai), 11.03 kg Methamphetamine, 1,314,401 Drug Pills, 1,216,387 Cannabis plants were seized. Total market value: 2483.427.005 TL
The Counter Narcotics Police Departments conducted operations mostly in large urban centres such as Istanbul, Bursa and Adana. During large scale police operations multiple locations and addresses were raided simultaneously. A high number of cannabis plants and large quantities of processed cannabis were found and burnt at the provinces of Hakkari, Diyarbakir and Bingöl. Two heavy loads of drug pills and heroin were found hidden in trucks searched at the Port of Mersin and Adana.
Major Incidents
06/09/2017 07:00 am. 109 kilos of heroin found hidden in a truck in Adana on its way to Istanbul.10/09/2017 01:30 am. Over 1 million Captagon (Fenethylline) pills were found hidden in a truck at the Port of Mersin. The truck had Northern Iraq as its final destination.Large scale Police operations in Bursa and Istanbul
Major Narcotics Incidents
PKK cannabis and Captagon pills
The drugs produced or smuggled in the Southeast Provinces are being channelled to large urban centres in Turkey or across the border to Iraq and Syria.
The high amount of cannabis plants cultivated in the southeast provinces supply the drug markets of populous cities in Turkey. It is highly likely that those cannabis farms are managed by people connected to PKK insurgents who either sell or directly exchange the cannabis with various sorts of supplies, such as guns and explosive materials, used in PKK operations. The Weapon Trafficking Incident recorded in the Intelligence Fusion’s database on September 11, 2017, where 50 unlicensed guns and ammunition of various brands were found hidden in a truck in Kızıltepe/Mardin province -20 km from the Syrian border- , shows that provinces of high drug production such as Mardin, Hakkari, Diyarbakir and Bingöl can potentially attract dealers from within Turkey, or from across the border, to sell or exchange drugs and weapons.
The cannabis production is not limited to in-Turkey distribution and consumption as drug trafficking from and to Iraq and Syria through Kurdish controlled Turkish border areas enable a greater flow of money and weaponry into Turkey. The truck caught at the Port of Mersin with over 1 million Captagon pills would almost certainly use one of those routes to reach Northern Iraq, as it was stated as its final destination. The Captagon pills are manufactured with a simple and inexpensive process, are widely consumed in the Arab countries and generate large profits for the producers and dealers. There are reports that the pills are widely used as a psycho stimulant by Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria as it is a cheap and easy to obtain drug.
A specially trained dog lead the police officers to the Captagon pills hidden in a truck at the Port of Mersin.
The Police tactics in Istanbul and Bursa show that drug gangs control large areas, are armed and have extensive networks in various districts which require a high number of officers and extensive ground and air control in order to be secured.
The Counter Narcotics Police Departments launched several large scale anti drug operations in Istanbul and Bursa. During those operations hundreds of police officers were either posted in static road check-points or raided multiple addresses simultaneously. In many of these operations, helicopters, drones and armored vehicles would secure the perimeter of the targeted districts while Special Police Forces would raid the houses, arrest suspects and find prohibited substances with the help of specially trained dogs. Apart from the above operations Police Forces raided suspected addresses and arrested drug dealers in other locations of the greater Istanbul region. In many of the raided addresses the police officers found guns showing that drug dealers do not only engage in drug dealing but other criminal activities such as armed robberies or protecting their drug dealing area. Such fighting between drug gangs erupted during an operation in Adana. Shots were fired between drug dealers, not towards the police officers, who saw an opportunity to advance their local dominance by killing their gang rivals fleeing the operation scene.
Illegal Migration
12,082 illegal migrants were detained and then deported with 1,746 of them caught in boats. 231 human smugglers were taken into custody.
Immigrant flows
Human traffickers and the Turkish leverage
Human smugglers operate at large within Turkey and Turkish authorities are intercepting human trafficking only in its last stages.
The majority of immigrants attempted to reach the Greek islands. Points of departure were Ayvalik and Ayvacık close to Mytilene Island, Izmir close to Chios island, and Aydin close to Samos island. Another route was from Turkey’s land border with Greece. The location immigrants chose was close to Edirne most likely because the Evros River, running throughout the Greek-Turkish border, meets with Ardas River which flows directly into Greek territory. From there they would take advantage of the thick forested areas and by boat cross the border to Greece. Alternatively, immigrants would move further North and attempt to cross the Turkish-Bulgarian border. Immigrants were caught in Kastamonu's Cide district preparing to depart for a trip across the Black Sea to the Romanian coasts.
Even though the Turkish Coast Guard and the local Gendarmerie forces proceeded to several detentions of immigrants and arrests of human smugglers, the reported 3,700 refugees who managed to reach the Greek islands in August and the 400 people per week so far this month shows that the human smugglers are operating at large at the coasts of Turkey. Turkey has accepted nearly 3 million Syrian refugees, in addition to immigrants of other nationalities, who put a strain on Turkish economy and local communities, and affect negatively the Turkish terrorism trends. In comparison to the thousands of refugees reaching the Greek/EU islands before the March 2016 agreement between EU and Turkey the current numbers seem to be low but the human trafficking networks are still active and handle the incoming refugees from their points of entry in Southeast Turkey, move them by all sorts of means through Turkey at their departure locations and finally arrange their transport to Greece, Bulgaria or Romania.
At this point we should note that Turkey is fully aware of EU’s inability to handle massive migration flows and the friction this issue creates among EU members states. Considering the worsening EU- Turkey relations and previous threats from President Erdogan that ‘he will open the gates for migrants to enter Europe’ the refugee flows appears to be a leverage Turkey has against EU. However this is also a great risk for Turkey’s social stability and security since by not deciding and implementing a clear integration policy for the millions of refugees currently residing in Turkey, and the many hundreds of thousands that may enter the country in the future, it creates socially isolated communities far from the Turkish security authorities’ reach.
References
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia,Canberra. 2017. Turkey. http://smartraveller.gov.au/countries/europe/southern/pages/turkey.aspx Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2017, UK. Turkey. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/turkey
International Organization for Migration- UN Migration Agency. 2017.
Migration flows - Europe. http://migration.iom.int/europe/
McCabe, M. & Harrington, D. 2017. Intelligence Fusion Platform [Online]. London: Ambix. Available: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/
Ministry of Interior. Republic of Turkey. September 2017, https://www.icisleri.gov.tr/11092017-18092017-tarihleri-arasinda-yurutulen-operasyonlar
Panagiotis Vasilias, September 10, 2017, Islamic State Threat to Turkey, Intelligence Fusion, https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/09/10/Islamic-State-Threat-to-Turkey
Safak Timur and Rod Norland, Nov. 25, 2016, The New York Times:Erdogan Threatens to Let Migrant Flood Into Europe Resume, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/world/europe/turkey-recep-tayyip-erdogan-migrants-european-union.html
Turkish Aerospace Industries, 2017, T129 ATAK ADVANCED ATTACK AND TACTICAL RECONNAISSANCE HELICOPTER, https://www.tai.com.tr/en/project/atak
Turkish Air Force.Official website 2017. Aircraft in the Inventory. https://www.hvkk.tsk.tr/en-us/Turkish_Air_Force/Todays_Air_Force/Aircraft_in_the_Inventory
Turkish armed forces, September 2017, http://www.tsk.tr/YurticiOlaylar
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