MESOP INTEL : ISIL Indictment Reveals Recruitment of Foreign Fighters Via Turkey

By Arif Tekdal – Todays Zaman – 2016-01-24 18:35 GMT – An indictment listing 67 suspected members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Turkey exposes how militants arrange for the pickup of foreign nationals from ?stanbul airports and their travel to Turkey’s southeastern provinces, so they can cross into Syria to join ISIL. The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office prepared the 315-page indictment for 67 individuals suspected of being ISIL members, some of whom are of Moroccan, Libyan, Colombian and Tunisian nationality.

The indictment was accepted by the ?stanbul 13th High Criminal Court in December 2015. Forty of the suspects are reported to be Syrian.The indictment shows how two of the suspects, a 23 year-old French national, Sarah Frederique Therese Hervouet, and a Saudi national, Alharth? Saleh Mubarak, were picked up from Sabiha Gökçen Airport in ?stanbul and escorted to southeast Turkey.Transcripts provided by police audio surveillance show that Cemil Aslan, one of the 67 suspects, had reserved four places on a coach headed from ?stanbul to Turkey’s southeastern ?anl?urfa province, which is on the border with Syria and a frequent transit point used by ISIL militants. Security personnel in ?stanbul informed their colleagues in ?anl?urfa about the passengers.Police from the ?anl?urfa Police Department then tracked the coach arriving from ?stanbul to ascertain the meet-up of the would-be ISIL recruits, including Hervouet, Mubarak and two Syrian minors, Osama Handani and El Haris Handani, with their guides. According to the indictment, a white Hyundai picked up the travelers.

Upon searching the vehicle, police found a military grade parka, one camouflaged assault vest, three wireless transmitters, three flashlights and one pair of night vision goggles. The car’s driver, Mehmet Demir, told police in his statement that Abu Suheyf had called him from ?stanbul and told him to pick up the passengers and check them into a hotel. Upon being questioned, Hervouet told police she had previously spent two days in Turkey and was this time planning to visit Sanli urfa. She told police she had met the individuals on the coach. The French national also purported not to know Demir, the driver, saying she thought it was a taxi and wanted him to take her to see the city. The indictment states that Hervouet was met by Kuwait national Assad Khelifalkhadr (26) and an unnamed man at Sabiha Airport on March 12, 2015.

Upon being searched, Mubarak was found to be in possession of 11 Sony digital handheld camcorders, 7 GoPro Hero4 digital cameras and 12 pieces of digital camera equipment. When questioned about the abundance of the digital recording equipment, Mubarak told the police that he had purchased the equipment to sell at home.In his statement to the police Mubarak said it was his first time traveling to Turkey. He said that after he arrived in ?stanbul, his sister in Syria called him to tell him that her two sons were in Istanbul with a family friend and asked if he could escort them to the Syrian border.

Mubarak said he went to the building where his sister had said her children were staying and met Hervouet, a person he only knew at the time as his cousin’s friend.The contradicting statements given by Hervouet and Mubarak led the prosecution to believe the pair was in fact heading for Syria via ?anl?urfa. The indictment accuses Hervouet of entering Turkey with the aim of joining a terrorist organization and states that the prosecution determined that she had become a member of the organization, along with Mubarak.

Halis Bayancuk, codename: “Abu Hanzala,” who is alleged to be the head of ISIL in Turkey, is also among the suspects. Khelifalkhadr, codename: “Abu Suheyf” is listed as the prime suspect in the case. Khelifalkhadr is facing up to five years in prison on a charge of “fabricating false documents” after he was detained with a fake passport.The indictment notes that even though there is no hierarchical structure between the ISIL militants, one ?lyas Ayd?n, is referred to as “hoca” or teacher, placing him above the others. Ayd?n is claimed to have handed down death penalties to victims in a so-called “Shariah court.” The indictment claims that Ayd?n called would-be jihadists to join ISIL on pro-ISIL social media platforms.

Aydin was claimed to preach hate sermons in so-called masjids, not under the Religious Affairs Directorate, where he called on the congregation to rise up against the “Taghut State,” referring to the Republic of Turkey. In Islamic theology, Taghut refers to idolatry or the worship of anything except Allah or a state ruled without Shariah law. The ISIL members who gave the sermons called on the congregation to refrain from sending their children to state schools, lest they be indoctrinated by the “Taghut state.”Video footage uploaded on the popular video-streaming platform YouTube, claimed to be of Aydin, has him calling people to religious jihad. The indictment also adds that Aydin was detained in a police operation against terrorism cells in ?stanbul in August 2012 but was released pending trial.Bayancuk, who was arrested in an Istanbul raid in late July 2015, faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” whereas Ilyas Aydin faces 15 years in prison on charges of “forming and heading an armed terrorist organization.”

?lyas Ayd?n and Bayancuk, among others, are also being charged with recruiting foreign nationals, such as 22-year-old French national Hervouet, for ISIL. After a tip-off by a family friend, in March 2015, ?stanbul police learned that Hervouet had come to Turkey with the intention of joining ISIL.

Bayancuk had been detained on Jan. 14, 2014, along with dozens of others during anti-terror raids on al-Qaeda cells by police and gendarmerie units in six provinces across Turkey. He was later arrested. However, he was released in the eastern city of Van last October by a controversial court order after the Turkish government reassigned the former head of the police counterterrorism unit in Van, Serdar Bayraktutan, who had directed the operation in which Bayancuk was detained. Bayraktutan carried out operations against al-Qaeda, Salafi groups and the left-wing Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party–Front (DHKP/C). He was one of the first in Turkey to launch operations into al-Qaeda cells in the country, following attacks by the group in ?stanbul in 2003, which claimed the lives of 57 people, including the British consul general.Some of the suspects have been accused of being involved in the publication of terrorist propaganda and theft to provide financial security for the organization, while others have been accused of actually entering Syria to fight for ISIL.