Timing of ISIS leader’s messages might not be coincidence - columnist

There is evidence that the timing of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s messages shared on Monday might not be a coincidence, wrote Muharrem Sarıkaya, a columnist of the Habertürk news site on Wednesday. 

“Daily operations are underway on different fronts,” Reuters quoted Baghdadi as saying in a 30-minute tape published by the Al Furqan network, in what would be his first message since April.

The message issued by the ISIS media network attributed to Baghdadi came on the same day as a meeting between Turkish, Russian, and Iranian leaders in Ankara for a trilateral summit on Syria and a week before the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“Maybe it is a coincidence that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi emerged apart from those developments. But when you look at his messages and what has happened afterwards, they provide some information that does not appear to be a coincidence,” Sarıkaya said. 

The columnist said that the developments since Baghdadi’s message proved that the jihadi group still had the capacity to recruit fighters and to organise attacks. Following the release of the tape, the ISIS web-sites have become active and there were messages posted on social media from different provinces in Turkey supporting ISIS, Sarıkaya said. 

Turkish police early on Wednesday launched a series of raids in Istanbul and arrested a number of people over ISIS links, while the authorities in the central Anatolian province of Konya arrested a man who shared a written note on social media he said was a gift to Baghdadi. 

Turkish security forces last year took into custody 3,038 people over ISIS links, 408 of which were arrested by courts for membership to a terrorist organisation, Sarıkaya said citing a report of a nationalist Turkish think tank published last week. Some 1,065 people have been taken under custody in the first eight months of 2019, 264 of which have been arrested by courts, according to the report of 21st Century Turkey Foundation. 

The report said that ISIS established training camps in Turkey, one of which was found in the Anamur district of the southeastern province of Mersin, a dominantly nationalist region. 

“This shows that ISIS is still effective and generates supporters,” Sarıkaya said, adding that the jihadi group could recruit many armed fighters in Syria who would accept to do anything in exchange of money. 

The columnist said this capability of ISIS was the reason behind the recent blasts in the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin controlled by Turkish-backed fighters and al-Rai, a Syrian district on the Turkish-Syrian border. Some 12 people died and 15 were left bounded after a bomb attack in al-Rai on Sunday.