Period: Monday September 18th, 2017 – Monday October 2nd, 2017
This report will present and examine the significance of major security incidents occurred in Turkey from September 18th, 2017 to Monday October 2nd, 2017. The incidents are arranged in the following categories: Terrorism (PKK, IS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, FETÃ, Left Wing Groups), Military, Narcotics and Illegal Migration.
The use of online communication applications in Turkey is progressively becoming criminalizedExtreme left wing terrorist organizations maintain their domestic and overseas networks and have purposefully limited their operations to minimize exposure to security authoritiesIslamic terrorist groups in Turkey are actively conducting recruiting operations of militants to be sent to Syria and plot attacks against TurkeyA Turkish military intervention in Northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) might push Turkey even further away from its Western alliesThe agreed Turkey-Iran-Russia controlled de-escalation zone in Syriaâs Idlib province will promote Turkeyâs strategic regional goals and determine its relations with the West
3515 operations were carried out by the Gendarmerie Special Operations (JÃH), Police Special Operations (PÃH), Gendarmerie Commando Units, Air and Ground units of the Turkish Armed Forces. A total of 10767 people were detained: 2366 for terrorism offences (PKK / KCK 265, IS 86, FETÃ 1968, Extreme Left 47), 7540 for Drug offences and Illicit Trafficking crimes, 23 for Cybercrime, 838 for Human Trafficking.
During the domestic counter terrorism operations 67 terrorists were killed, 11 were captured and 30 surrendered. Total: 108
The following weaponry and material were seized:
PKK insurgents attacked and killed military and civilian personnel either with road-placed IEDs, or with short or long distance weapons, such as mortar and rocket attacks. The Turkish Armed Forces launched a series of air strikes against PKK positions and conducted counter operations after every PKK attack. During the operations, PKK weaponry and tons of food were found hidden in caves to be used by the insurgents during the winter. Due to the increased terrorism threat, Central BingÃ¶l and 3 villages of DoÄubayazÄ±t in AÄri were declared ‘Temporary security zones’ and curfews were declared in Siirt and Diyarbakir due to the ongoing counter terrorism operations.
PKK Major Incidents
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265 people accused of belonging to and collaborating with PKK/KCK were detained, 30 surrendered and 65 PKK insurgents were killed during the operations.
The PKK insurgents were killed, captured or surrendered at the following locations:
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A. On two occasions PKK targeted and attacked non-Turkish individuals
i. 25/09/2017. PKK attacked a minibus and killed 4 and injured 14 Afghan nationals who had entered Turkey via an illegal route in AÄrÄ±’s DoÄubayazÄ±t district.
ii. 25/09/2017. One Syrian migrant was killed and five others were injured at the Derecik Border Battalion Command in Åemdinli/Hakkari after a PKK mortar attack from across the Iraqi border. The migrants were waiting for their asylum procedures to be completed.
The van attacked by PKK insurgents in AÄrÄ± Source: Turkish Armed Forces
COMMENT – Both incidents have three common characteristics: they happened the same day, they targeted foreign nationals and heavy weapons were used during the attacks. It is reported that PKK fired some 32 mortar rounds across the Iraqi border against the gendarmerie battalion command in Åemdinli and used heavy weapons against the minibus in AÄrÄ±. That shows that PKK insurgents did not act opportunistically and that they probably had a particular interest in those two targets. Although it is not confirmed, it is highly likely that PKK insurgents were tracking to kill one or more of the foreign nationals possibly for either being PKK deserters/informants or IS affiliated – COMMENT ENDS
ISLAMIC TERRORIST GROUPS
Turkish counter terrorism forces arrested 86 people accused of belonging to and collaborating with the Islamic State. IS members from Indonesia, Syria and Iraq were among the ones arrested.
Islamic State Incidents
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A. 18/9/2017. 4 ISIS members arrested in Mardin
A “lone wolf” suspect and another IS member, who crossed the Syrian-Turkish border to receive medical treatment after being injured while fighting for IS, were captured in a house at the Artuklu district. During the same operation, two more IS members were captured at the MazÄ±daÄÄ± district.
COMMENT – The IS fighter caught at the Artuklu district, not only did he manage to cross the Turkish-Syrian border while being injured, but he was able to seek and receive medical assistance for his injuries. Most likely, local IS sympathizers or other IS members who operate in the Mardin Province and have cross border communication with IS operatives, arranged the border crossing and provided the injured fighter with medical care and shelter at a safe house – COMMENT ENDS
B. 26/9/2017. IS cell dismantled in Istanbul
2 Indonesians and 1 Syrian, detained during a counter terrorism operation by the Turkish Police conducted at three separate addresses of two different provinces of Istanbul on Sept. 12, are accused of being members of an IS cell in Istanbul. Organizational documents and propaganda videos were found and seized on their possession.The Indonesian-Syrian IS cell
COMMENT – The unpublished video footage of executions, the document showing instructions on how to build a bomb similar to the one used in the 2013 Boston Marathon attack, and the IS propaganda photos found at the locations the above three individuals were captured, strongly indicate that they were planning either an IED or a suicide attack. The Indonesian background of two of the three captured shows that IS operatives from the Southeast Asian country, being second on the worldwide list of foreign jihadists detained in Turkey, are still present and are willing to engage in terrorist operations in Turkey. Foreign IS members in Turkey, such as the two Indonesians, might have joined IS for ideological or for economic reasons. An IS recruiter Mahmut Ã, previously arrested in Adana, confessed during his interrogation that he was earning up to $7,000 for every new recruit and every recruit was promised $2,000 each to fight for IS. COMMENT ENDS.
C. 29/9/2017. 3 IS operatives caught in Izmir
Three out of the four people detained during a drone assisted counter terrorism operation in Ä°zmir were arrested accused of being IS members. They were involved in the following activities: recruiting IS members, online IS propaganda, training fighters in Menemen/Izmir to be sent to Syria and planning an attack in Turkey. Organizational documents and materials were found at the simultaneously raided addresses.
Jabhat Fateh al-Sham
A. 29/9/2017. Six Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (ex Al-Nusra Front) operatives caught in Bursa’s Orhangazi district
Six people were taken into custody accused of working for the Salafist jihadist terrorist organization Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (ex Al-Nusra Front) during a counter terrorism operation at the Orhangazi district of Bursa. They were recruiting fighters to sent to Syria and fight for Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
COMMENT – In August 2017 and during a period of two weeks (8th to 21st August) the Turkish Counter Terrorism Forces arrested 24 Al-Nusra fighters and recruiters in Izmir, Diyarbakir and Adiyaman. The arrests came after al-Nusra militants took under their control the Bab al-Hawa crossing in Syria (July 23rd, 2017) followed by the closure of the CilvegÃ¶zÃ¼ border crossing at the Turkish side on the 10th of August. The above incident in Bursa shows that since then the Al-Nusra operatives are still present in Turkey and the fact that they are actively recruiting militants in Turkish soil to fight for them in Syria shows the extent of their control over the Turkish border line with Syriaâs Idlib province – COMMENT ENDS.
1968 people, considered to be in contact with the FETÃ/PDY, were taken into custody during operations throughout the country. Almost all of them, businessmen, civil workers, teachers and former MIT personnel, were arrested for using the encrypted messaging application âByLockâ. Additionally, arrest warrants for 117 active military personnel in Turkey were issued.
Major FETÃ Arrests
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COMMENT – The Turkish Supreme Courtâs General Board stated that the use of ByLock messaging application constitutes sufficient evidence for a suspect to be charged and convicted for being a FETÃ movement follower. It was also stated that someone can be convicted just for having the application installed on their phone. Such a ruling by the Supreme Court not only enables mass detentions on existing ByLock users – which are currently occurring – but it opens the way for the criminalization of other messaging applications as well – COMMENT ENDS
EXTREME LEFT TERRORIST GROUPS
MLKP, MKP-HKO and DHKP-C
47 people in contact with or linked to extreme left-wing terrorist organizations were taken into custody. 2 were killed at the city of Ovacik in Tunceli.
A. 23/9/2017. Members of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) killed the Socialist Party of the Oppressed representative, Riza ÃrÃ¼k.
It is reported that members of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) killed the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) representative RÄ±za ÃrÃ¼k at Saritosun village in Tunceli’s OvacÄ±k district on his way to a Party meeting at YaylagÃ¼nÃ¼ village. MLKP stated that RÄ±za ÃrÃ¼k was working as an agent-informant. ESP stated that RÄ±za ÃrÃ¼k had no relationship with the Party.
B. 24-27/9/2017. Members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) arrested in Istanbul
i. 10 people were arrested at the Ä°dil Cultural Center at the OkmeydanÄ± neighborhood of ÅiÅli/Istanbul for links to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C). Among the arrested DHKP-C members was D.Ã. the alleged DHKP-C Mediterranean region commander, responsible for the encrypted communication with overseas command centers of the organization.
ii. Eight members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) were arrested during a counter terrorism operation at various locations of Istanbul.
COMMENT – Authorities claimed that information for DHKP-C activities in Istanbul came from secret informants who have infiltrated the organization. The normal reaction of any organization after such arrests of high ranked members is to pause or cancel any planned operations, change or mute its means of communication, conduct internal investigations to detect the leaks and calculate the leaked information, and based on this anticipate any future operations against them. A retaliation attack is possible but it would lead to an undesirable organizational mobility that the authorities await to take advantage of and arrest more members – COMMENT ENDS.
C. 26/9/2017. 2 PKK (originally MKP/HKO members) insurgents killed in Tunceli
Two PKK insurgents were killed at Tunceli’s rural Ovacik district. A large number of Kalashnikov rifles, sniper rifles, Glock pistols, grenades and miscellaneous materials were seized. The two dead were originally members of the Maoist Communist Party of Turkey (MKP / HKO). One of the two insurgents was Orhan G., code named “Rojhat”, the so-called regional police officer, and has been involved with the PKK for 11 years.
Turkish troops and armored vehicles have been consistently transferred to strategic locations across the border line with Syria after agreed joint operations with Iran and Russia in Northern Syria. The Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), held on September 25th, triggered a series of statements/threats by the Turkish State against the KRG and a military drill with the participation of Iraqi troops which is still conducted near the Habur Border Gate at the Silopi district of ÅÄ±rnak.
A. 18/9/2017 Turkish Armed Forces begin a military drill in the Silopi district near the Habur border gate.
Nearly 100 armored vehicles, mostly tanks, howitzers, Turkish and Iraqi troops (joined the drill 26/9) conduct tactical manoeuvres. Tanks from the Silopi Tank battalion were added on the 30th.
COMMENT – The drill started one week before the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, held on September 25th, 2017. It was an attempt from Ankara to deter the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) from holding the referendum and show in practise its intentions against any future KRG regional claims. Until the 1st of October no additional Turkish armored vehicles or troops have been moved to the Turkish borderline with Iraq. Even though President Erdogan, ministers of his government and members of the opposition have declared their willingness to militarily intervene in Northern Iraq if Turkeyâs security is threatened after the independence declared by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), such a decision in order to be effective will need to balance and promote the strategic interests of other major actors involved in the ongoing Iraqi and Syrian operations, such as Russia, Iran and US. Such a wide alliance with states considered by the US as existential threats could severely deteriorate Turkeyâs relations with NATO and EU – COMMENT ENDS
Turkish tanks near the Habur border gate. AFP PHOTO / STR
B. Turkish military vehicles and Turkish soldiers were transferred at Hatay’s ReyhanlÄ± district
16/9. Armored military vehicles were sent as reinforcements at Hatay’s ReyhanlÄ± district at the Syrian border.20/9. The military vehicle shipment continues at the ReyhanlÄ± district of Hatay.21/9. 10 tanks, 2 from Hassa and 8 from ReyhanlÄ±, were transferred to the CilvegÃ¶zÃ¼ Border Gate/Hatay to reinforce the border line.30/9. A number of Turkish military vehicles, including ammunition and medical supplies-laden vehicles, crossed the 5 kilometer buffer zone between CilvegÃ¶zÃ¼ Border Gate and its opposite Syrian Border Gate Bab-al Hawa.
The CilvegÃ¶zÃ¼ (Turkey) and Bab-al Hawa (Syria) border Gates (Click on above image to expand)
COMMENT – The military shipments at the CilvegÃ¶zÃ¼ Border Gate begun a day after delegations from Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Kazakhstan’s Astana and agreed on the borders of a âde-escalation zoneâ in Syriaâs northern Idlib province, bordering Turkeyâs Hatay province currently under control by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, a merged group with the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the al-Nusra Front) being the dominant one. A few days later Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will deploy troops in northern Idlib. Erdoganâs main strategic goals through the establishment of a âde-escalation zoneâ in Idlib are a) establish his alliance with Iran and Russia through joint military operations in Idlib as his ties with NATO and EU are worsening b) secure Turkeyâs border from the jihadist groups ruling the Syrian province c) prevent the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – a mainly Kurdish militia in Syria backed by US against its fight with IS and the primary component of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria’s Syrian Democratic Forces- from further advancing in Northern Syria and establishing a unified Kurdish controlled region which would stretch throughout Turkeyâs border line with Iraq and Syria and d) establish ground control and freedom of movement on Syrian territory to be used in future operations against Kurdish held territories – COMMENT ENDS.
The Turkish Counter Narcotics Police Department conducted extensive operations throughout Turkey resulting in numerous arrests of drug traffickers and the seizure of large drug quantities. Special police forces carried out multiple operations and simultaneously raided multiple addresses at the Fatih, BeyoÄlu and ÅiÅli districts of Istanbul. Further, during searches at two cargo companies in BaÅakÅehir and KÃ¼Ã§Ã¼kÃ§ekmece the police found drug pills hidden in packages ready to be sent to international destinations. In the Southeastern provinces a large amount of processed cannabis and cannabis plants were found, notably in Diyarbakir, and the customs officers in Kilis intercepted a Syrian licence plated truck loaded with nearly 3 million drug pills.
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According to the Turkish Interior Ministry 5.586 counter narcotics operations were conducted and the following drugs were found and seized: 7.653 kg Cannabis, 320 kg Heroin, 11 kg Cocaine, 25 kg Synthetic cannabinoid (Bonzai), 26 kg Methamphetamine, 3.197.348 drug pills, 427.177 Cannabis plants. Total market value: 168.418.692 TL
The Turkish Interior Ministry has announced that 5,144 illegal immigrants were detained, 1312 of them on boats at the Aegean Sea attempting to cross the border to Greece, and that 838 human smugglers were arrested.
COMMENT- The over 3 million Syrian refugees and some 300,000 refugees of other nationalities living in Turkey are under a Temporary Protection regime which grants them rights of legal stay and limited access to basic rights and services. The vast majority of them are living outside of the camps. Nearly 234,000 live in 23 camps close to the border with Syria. Such high numbers of people require a well organized and costly organization and a large number of human resources to be dealt with. Housing infrastructure, medical support, catering and well equipped registration posts, to name a few, are essential for an effective registration and safe stay of the immigrants. The Temporary Protection regime might partly relieve Turkish authorities from the burden of managing such overwhelming human flows but it allows the underpaid and disappointed migrants to seek a way into Europe usually through dangerous and illegal routes, mostly through the Aegean and Black Sea – COMMENT ENDS.
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Report written by Panagiotis Vasilias