Leaked wiretaps of ISIS agents show Ankara routinely ignores terrorist cross-border activity
Thousands of ISIS associates have been routinely crossing into Syria aided by contacts in Turkey, phone calls tapped by Ankara security forces and handed to the media by opposition MP Erem Erdem reveal. He accuses the government of a massive cover-up.
Transcribed phone recordings belonging to Ilhami Bali, well known in Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) ranks and suspected of staging high-profile bomb attacks in Ankara and the mainly-Kurdish border city of Suruc, detail the lack of control along the Syrian Turkish border. The 98-kilometer (61-mile) stretch of border has only two crossings, the Jarablus and Al Rai entry points across from Turkey’s Gaziantep and Kilis.
Pressured by the international community to impose stricter border controls to stem the flood of militants into Syria, Ankara has been erecting walls at key crossing points, but to no avail as surveillance data from the Municipality of Ankara Provincial Security Department revealed.
The transcripts of the recordings have been passed on to the media by Turkish opposition politician, Eren Erdem of the Republican People's Party (CHP), who is facing a witch-hunt from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government over his repeated allegations of massive cover-up of IS activity on Turkish soil.
While daily logs by the Turkish Armed Forces reveal that Turkish security forces apprehended 961 IS members from 57 countries in 2015, the alleged reality exposed by the Erdem leak, shows that thousands of IS fighters and their family members cross the Turkish border from Syria on a daily basis. But even those who get arrested on the Turkish side are often released at the crossing points.
For instance several documents suggest that IS coordinators helped some 1,400 people cross the Turkish border from September 22 – October 17. In one of the phone conversations, Ilhami Bali asked his unknown interlocutor, who according to the conversations helps smuggle people, the exact number of persons he has helped cross the border.
As the men argue about the actual number of all those who entered and left Turkey, the conversation reveals that the actual count of people passing through to the Turkish side is actually more than IS coordinators have presumed.
Another conversations between the two subjects revealed Bali was extremely dissatisfied with the man's performance as he failed to help IS operatives cross the border.
“Did you get our people through?” Bali asked the man, who replied that he was not the one guiding the group in question.
“What? Are you the one who is responsible that they got arrested? Don’t lie to me! Don't lie to me. Eighteen people crossed the border last night. Fifteen of them got arrested when you tried to help them,” Bali said.
“Listen to me, I have warned you,” added Bali, losing his temper. “If I ever hear that you try to pass our guys through, I will come in your house and shoot you to your head. I will shoot your head while you’re in bed.”
However, as other conversations have shown, IS operatives and contacts on the Turkish side of the border help those IS affiliates detained by Turkish security forces to evade justice.
“One brother, two sisters and one child were arrested while they tried to cross [at Kilis]. How could this happen?” Bali was asked in another phone call.
“We have called and gave them the information,” Bali replied. “We talked to the brother who will look after the people who were arrested. Inshallah will look after them.”
More conversations between the two subjects further confirm that those who get arrested are later released through IS connections at police stations.
“The guy from the Gendarmerie called me and said that they were in the smuggler car,” Bali told his unknown interlocutor in a conversations about another group detained at the border. “Call this guy. The people who got arrested today are at the Gandermarie station. Maybe he can do something… Gendarmerie took them under arrest. If they can let them free they should do that.”
Bali’s conversation with another IS operative, Mustafa Demir, offers apparent proof that the IS terror group is smuggling its fighters into Turkey for medical treatment.
“You know this Abu Abdella Garip who gets out the wounded people? Now Ali Mantara will come. He will bring a brother. He will call you when he arrives... Take the numbers and send them to the administration [of the crossing]. So the administration will look after them,” Mustafa Demir tells Bali.
“Where should I bring Abdullah Garip who helps cross the wounded ones? Should I take him to madrasa?” Bali asked.
“Send them to madrasa and call Ebu Abdallah and tell him that five persons are with Garip Geli... tell him that he should write down their names... So we can control how many left from here,” Demir replies.
In another conversation anonymous man asks Bali what should “one wounded person” do when he comes to Turkey.
“I don't really know. It has nothing to do with us,” Bali replied. “Tell them they should go to the border to the administration there.”