A Moroccan engineer who joined the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria in 2013 says he essentially served as the terrorist organisation’s ambassador to Turkey as he met with high-level officials in all the security branches of the government, Homeland Security Today magazine reported on Monday.
Abu Mansour al Maghrebi made the claim during a five hour interview with the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) researchers in February, it said.
“My job was to direct operatives to receive the foreign fighters in Turkey,” Abu Mansour told ICSVE, referring to the network of ISIS-paid people who facilitated foreign fighter travel from Istanbul to the Turkish bordering Syria such as Gaziantep, Antakya, and Şanlıurfa. “Most of them were paid by Dawlah[ISIS]... Many in Turkey believe and give their bayat [oath of allegiance] to Dawlah. There are ISIS guys living in Turkey, individuals and groups, but no armed groups inside Turkey.”
When we ask who exactly in the Turkish government was meeting with ISIS members, Abu Mansur said, “There were teams meeting with ISIS members, some of which represented Turkish intelligence and some the Turkish Army.’’
‘’Most meetings were in Turkey in military posts or their offices. It depended on the issue. Sometimes we meet each week. It depends on what was going on. Most of the meetings were close to the borders, some in Ankara, some in Gaziantep,” he explained.
Abu Mansour explained how he met with government officials in Ankara.
“I passed the borders and they let me pass. [At the border,] the Turks always sent me a car and I’m protected. A team of two to three people from our side were with me. I was in charge of our team most of the time,” he said.
Abu Mansour explained that common benefits was a big subject in the meetings they held, noting, “It’s a new thing when you create a state and separate it from the outside world. The negotiations were not easy. It took a long time. Sometimes it was hard.”
Abu Mansour’s “diplomatic” reach on behalf of ISIS extended even to the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, himself.
“I was about to meet him but I did not. One of his intelligence officers said Erdogan wants to see you privately but it didn’t happen,” Abu Mansour said.
In 2014, Turkey was trying to play a double game with the West, he explained, by allowing foreign fighters into Syria while giving the appearance that they were taking measures to prevent it.
“Turkey wanted to make it easy for foreign fighters to cross the borders,” Abu Mansour said.
He went on to explain that EU members were very distinguished with their beards so they were told to come into Syria at night.
Turkey in 2014 opened some legal gates under the eye of Turkish intel that ISIS members went in and out through, according to Abu Mansour, who added, “But, entry into Syria was easier than return to Turkey. Turkey controlled the movements.”
Abu Mansour also talks about the negotiations for the release of the Turkish diplomats and workers in 2014 after ISIS took Mosul, saying, “The negotiation happened in Syria. Actually, [ISIS] entry in Mosul was not a surprise takeover in one day. It took many days, but I think the Turkish government told their consul not to leave Mosul. Many Turkish truck drivers were also in Mosul at that time. They were not in danger, but there was a negotiation to release them. Islamic State made demands as well. It took time.”
The ISIS official says that for the consul employees,“approximately 500 prisoners were released from Turkey, and they came back to Dawlah [ISIS].”
After coming under increased criticism for lack of security measures along the Syrian border, Ankara intensified efforts to crack down on ISIS activity inside the country in 2015.
The country was hit by a series of terror attacks blamed on ISIS in recent years including the last in January 2017 when a gunman killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub.