Turkey should support Islamic groups against state terrorism in some critical regions of Africa such as the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and Nigeria, said retired Gen. Adnan Tanrıverdi, the former chief military aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who also owns private military contractor SADAT, which many believe is a de facto paramilitary force loyal to the Islamist president of Turkey.
An article published by Tanrıverdi in May 2014 revealed the key determinant of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) links to radical and terrorist groups in Africa. Tanrıverdi, an important figure in Erdoğan’s inner circle, defined African countries’ fight against terrorist groups as “state terrorism” and argued that Turkey should consider effective measures to protect “Islamic groups” in the Central African Republic, Mali and Nigeria from this state terrorism.
“In addition, I think that discriminatory and foreign-backed state terrorism targeting Islamic groups in some critical regions of Africa such as Central African Republic, Mali and Nigeria, and preventive measures [to protect those groups] should be studied carefully,” Tanrıverdi said.
It is interesting that a leaked recording of a conversation that took place in 2014, the same year that Tanrıverdi revealed Turkey’s strategy towards some African countries, between an adviser of Erdoğan and an official from Turkish Airlines (THY) revealed that Turkey’s national airline and the Turkish government were alleged to have been involved in a transfer of arms to the Nigerian-based terrorist organization Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The recording confirms that the Erdoğan government started providing material support to armed jihadist groups in some African countries in accordance with the strategy shaped by Erdoğan’s radical Islamist aide Tanrıverdi.
According to the voice recording, uploaded to YouTube, Mehmet Karataş, executive assistant to the chief executive officer of THY, is heard telling Erdoğan adviser Mustafa Varank, now the industry minister, that he feels guilty about the transfer of weapons to Nigeria. Karataş is heard saying in the recording, “I don’t know whether these [weapons] will kill Muslims or Christians.” Varank says he had not had a chance to talk to the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), Hakan Fidan and would get back to Karataş as soon as he was able to speak to the intel chief.
Today, Turkey is being investigated by the Nigerian Armed Forces over allegations it supplied “sophisticated weapons” to Boko Haram, Nigerian news website The Will reported on November 26, 2019. Saying the reported supply of arms to Boko Haram by Turkey was a serious national security issue, Defense Headquarters spokesman Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu said the matter was receiving attention at a strategic level.
In addition to the investigation in Nigeria, Niger’s National Security Service arrested “three terrorists,” including two Turkish citizens, in December 2019, flying in from Turkey on THY. The three are accused of affiliation with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS).
With reference to local security sources, Al Arabiya claimed that “Turkey would use the airport [constructed by Turkish companies] and Turkish Airlines flights to Niamey and Bamako to support extremists in southern Libya and destabilize neighboring Nigeria.”
Tanrıverdi announced in December 2019 that his organization SADAT, which is fully funded and supported by the Turkish government, has been working to pave the way for the long-awaited mahdi (prophesied redeemer of Islam), for whom the entire Muslim world is waiting.
Turkey’s opposition lawmakers had asked the government about the alleged role of SADAT in training ISIS and Syrian al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusrah (al-Nusra Front) fighters and alleged close relations between Turkish intelligence agency MİT and SADAT. Moreover, SADAT was accused of training jihadists sent by Turkey to fight for the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya.
In addition to SADAT, Erdoğan has used his close confidants to run clandestine networks and organize radical groups around the world. For instance, Emrullah İşler, a member of parliament from the AKP and a former deputy prime minister, has coordinated Erdoğan’s official and private contacts with jihadist groups in the Middle East and North Africa.
Metin Külünk, a childhood friend of Erdoğan, has functioned as one of the key operatives who provided money to a right-wing gang in Germany called Osmanen Germania to purchase weapons, organize protests and target critics of the Turkish leader.
Külünk had run the armed wing of the Islamist Akıncılar (Raiders) group in the late 1970s. The Raiders were a youth organization affiliated with the National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi, or MSP), an Islamist party established by the late Necmettin Erbakan, founder of political Islam in Turkey. No detailed information has yet emerged as to how, in what capacity and to what extent Erdoğan was involved with Akıncılar, but it is clear that he played a role in the organization in the ’70s. Old pictures of him at public rallies in those days show that he was active in the organization. Similarly, many radical and Islamist figures of today also share a past with this organization.
Külünk was investigated as a suspect in Islamist terrorist group the Islamic Great East Raiders/Front (İslami Büyük Doğu Akıncıları Cephesi, İBDA/C or IBDA-C) in 2007. Interestingly, the founder of İBDA/C, Salih Mirzabeyoğlu, was among the founders of Akıncılar. İBDA/C was involved in dozens of deadly bombings and murders in Turkey in the 1990s.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) then-parliamentary group deputy chairman Ali Topuz claimed in 2003 that Erdoğan was one of the original leaders of İBDA/C. He also alleged that convicted felons from the group were employed by the İstanbul Municipality when Erdoğan was mayor of the city. Erdoğan denied the allegations.