Turkey’s military intelligence identifies 4,000 Turkish ISIL militants, 69 jihadist groups

Turkish soldiers captured a number of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant fighters fleeing the fighting in Tel Abyad which fell to YPG in June 2015.


A secret Turkish military intelligence document shows 4,000 jihadists as active militants in 69 different Salafist/takfiri groups in Turkey and that 4,671 Turkish jihadists had gone to Syria as of July 2016.

According to the document, obtained by Nordic Monitor, six groups that gained prominence among jihadists were listed as the Murat Gezenler group in the Turkish capital of Ankara; the Halis Bayancuk (Abu Hanzala) group in Istanbul; the Mustafa Dokumacı group in southeastern Adıyaman province; the Haydar Kirikan group in the conservative central province of Konya; and the Hıdır Elibol and Nurettin Muslihan groups.

The intelligence assessment document indicates that the gendarmerie had identified 1,443 Turks as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants who went to Syria for purposes of jihad, while the police department, the main law enforcement agency in Turkey, found that 3,228 Turks had crossed illegally into Syria to fight alongside jihadist groups. In total, 4,671 Turks went to conflict zones to engage in jihadist activity, the document concludes.


Secret Turkish military document that reveals an ISIL network in Turkey.


The military also provided a breakdown of the 1,407 Turkish ISIL militants who were identified by the gendarmerie: 83 percent of them, or 1,171 people, were men, and 17 percent, or 256, were women. The top 10 provinces that sent jihadists to Syria according to birth registry data were Konya, with 135 people; Ankara, with 120; Adıyaman, with 57; Diyarbakır, with 57; Kırıkkale, with 48; Kayseri, with 42; Gaziantep, with 43; Adana, with 40; Malatya, with 36; and Bingöl, with 37 jihadists. The top 10 provinces’ listing changed when compared to residency data, which include the current home addresses of the jihadists. In this case, Istanbul was the number one province, followed by Ankara, Konya, Bursa, Adana and Gaziantep.

The assessment also examined the motivations that led Turks to join jihadist groups in Syria. Accordingly, 90 percent of participants joined for personal reasons, with most falling in the 25-30 age group. Almost one-third of participants (29 percent) had criminal records including membership in a terrorist group, theft and drugs.

Some 8 to 10 percent of participants who went to conflict zones for jihadist purposes were families, the report found. Twenty-five to 30 percent were motivated to make the trip to derive some sort of material benefit, such as earning money, building a career, finding work, owning a home, acquiring a female slave (cariye) or fleeing from the law. The report found that 12 percent of participants had in the past either gone to Afghanistan, Pakistan or Chechnya for jihadist activity or had a family member who had made such a trip.

The intelligence document notes that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, issued an order in June 2016 that militants of Iraqi origin must be assigned to work in Turkey instead of Syrians and added that Turkish nationals who signed up with ISIL would start crossing back into Turkey from the village of Arab Izzah, about 30 kilometers west of the border town of Jarabulus. It further noted that ISIL deployed tunnel boring equipment in Jarablus and started digging to open a tunnel in early 2016.

According to the document, ISIL militants have started employing a different tactic to smuggle fighters back into Turkey in the Kilis-Azaz border area by persuading businesspeople in Turkey to engage in fake trade and list the names of Syrian ISIL militants who would be smuggled into Turkey as the recipients of the goods listed in the bill of lading.

Turkish soldiers captured a number of ISIL militants fleeing the fighting in Tel Abyad, which fell to the YPG in June 2015.

It warned that ISIL was looking for targets among Shiite mosques in Turkey to create a Sunni-Shiite conflict, on domestic flights that carry tourists and in the vicinity of touristic destination in the northwestern province of Bursa. Another tip included in the document stated that ISIL set up hit teams of between four and eight people in the Turkish provinces of Gaziantep, where anti-ISIL Syrian journalists would be attacked, and in the provinces of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir, where plots to assassinate Kurdish government employees, journalists and military and intelligence officers were planned.

The document warns that ISIL has in particular been searching for high-profile targets to create what it called “sensational” attacks in Turkey’s major cities of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir following the ISIL bombing at Istanbul Atatürk Airport on June 28, 2016. The goal was to deter Turkey from cooperating with the anti-ISIL coalition led by the United States, it explains. It further notes that al-Baghdadi has reportedly taken a decision to maintain attacks in Turkey until the government stops cooperating with Western countries.

In terms of the operations that targeted the ISIL network, the intelligence document states that 307 terrorist incidents took place in areas under gendarmerie jurisdiction between January 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016. Most of the incidents were recorded in the form of detentions (273), while seven armed attacks took place. In the same period the gendarmerie took legal action against 918 ISIL suspects, with 607 being foreign nationals from 48 countries. No action was taken with regard to the 285 babies and children who accompanied the ISIL suspects.

Most of the detainee were from Turkey, with 34 percent of the total, while the remainder came from Syria (14 percent), Russia (10 percent), China (7 percent), Tajikistan (5 percent), Iraq (3 percent) and Azerbaijan (3 percent).

The document confirms the claims raised by some high-ranking officers who were allegedly involved in the limited mobilization on the night of a failed coup on July 15, 2016. During the ensuing coup trials, many defendants testified that they were responding to an ISIL attack on military targets and thought they were actually providing security in and around the installations. The intelligence assessment filed by the military on the morning of the same day substantiates these claims and proves that military installations were in fact on the target list of ISIL based on the intelligence gathered.

The intelligence assessment document was stamped “secret” and numbered HRK.3080-1138452/TEM D.Ter.Oly.Ş.Ter.Oly.Ks. on July 15, 2016. It was dispatched from the Gendarmerie General Command for distribution to the relevant sections of the Office of the Chief of General Staff including the operations branch and intelligence service. The document was apparently sent at the request of the operations branch of the Office of the Chief of General Staff, which issued the order in document No.HRK.:26702250-3600-158460-15/Cari HRK.D.MMHM and asked for a report on domestic ISIL networks. It was signed by both Turan Canoglu, a terrorism expert, and Lt. Col. Yusuf Köz, and approved by Arif Çetin, the lieutenant general responsible for operations who was promoted to commander of the gendarmerie in 2017.

The full intelligence document is published below:


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