Wiretapped telephone conversations have revealed that the Islamic State (IS) has been in secret negotiations with the Turkish military allowing IS to cross the Turkish-Syrian border. The conversations detailed pleasant conversations between Turkish military officers and Mustafa Demir, who is in charge of IS operations along the Syria-Turkey border. These allegations were published in Today’s Zaman, a Turkish newspaper close to exiled Turkish Islamist dissident Fetullah Gulen. Zaman cites a report in Cumhuriyet, a newspaper aligned with secular opposition to the ruling Turkish AKP.
Turkish prosecutors claim to possess telephone transcripts of the conversations but also detailed evidence that Demir was in behind the transportation of bombs from Syria to Turkey. Demir reportedly used financing through zakat charities to pay off Turkish military personnel at the border.
The Turkish government has been accused of ignoring the threat posed by the IS as such cases with the January 10 bombing in Istanbul, which killed ten German tourists. Turkey has also been accused of aiding the IS in their fight against the Syrian government. According to Turkish prosecutors Turkish national intelligence agency known as the MIT, reportedly facilitated the shipment of goods from Turkey on behalf of terrorist groups.
Turkey has also been accused by a number of countries for providing the IS with weapons, logistics, intelligence gathering, transportation, and manpower.
The information in this case came to prosecutors attention when six Turkish citizens provided information in regards to relatives who had gone to join the IS. Upon this information prosecutors began to monitor the calls of 19 people. Soon after that prosecutor Derda Gokman reportedly filed charges against 27 individuals based on information from phone conversations.
Along with Mustafa Demir the other lead mastermind of these payoffs at the Turkish-Syrian border is a man named Ilhamil Bali, aka “Ebubekir”, whose reportedly given the order for terrorist attacks in Turkey, which have killed hundreds.
Smugglers at the border can charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per person, and they pay noncommissioned officers $2,000 to $2,500 to look the other way for fifteen minutes. IS controls the Syrian village of Havar that faces Turkey’s Akinci and is a known crossing point for smugglers.
Turkish officials claim that security along the Turkish-Syrian border is getting better, pointing to a reported 961 arrests made of suspected IS members in 2015. However, these individuals are often released quickly after detainment raising questions of how serious the security effort is.
Turkey has also been criticized for allowing IS fighters to cross into Syria and allowing fighters to reenter Europe, including two of the Paris attackers, through a policy of essentially rubber-stamping passports of individuals entering and returning from Syria with little scrutiny.
Turkey’s continued dalliances with Islamic State and other jihadist groups, like Al Qaeda, raises serious questions about their role as a NATO ally, and particularly, regarding their influence over U.S. Syria policy.