Ankara, Istanbul, Brussels tipped off ahead of terror attacks: Reports
REUTERS photoSecurity authorities in Turkey and Belgium were warned by Turkey’s Counter-terrorism Department (TEM) of imminent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks before both countries were hit with explosions on January and March. Meanwhile, a separate report by Turkish daily Cumhuriyet has claimed that intelligence units in Ankara were tipped off about a bomb attack 25 days before twin blasts hit the capital on Oct. 10, 2015.
“People with links to Daesh [ISIL] will stage attacks in Turkey and Belgium on 2016 and they might use hotels or customer relations personnel to this end,” stated a Dec. 23 warning by TEM, before ISIL hit Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square on Jan. 12, touristic İstiklal Avenue on March 19, and Brussels on March 22.
In a separate report, TEM also warned about ongoing exploratory investigations by Yunus Durmaz, the so-called “emir” of the jihadist group who is on Turkey’s red list for “wanted terrorists” with a 4 million-lira reward offered to intelligence leading to his capture. The report also included information on four ISIL militants - code named Talip, Furkan, Cuma and Memiş - who allegedly infiltrated into Turkish territory in preparation for a terror attack.
Meanwhile, a second report in daily Cumhuriyet on April 13 published the findings of a preliminary report investigating the Oct. 10 bombing in Ankara that killed 103 people, including two suicide bombers. The report suggested that Turkey’s intelligence units were tipped off about imminent suicide bomb attacks targeting rallies 25 days before the explosion, but an intelligence officer did not convey the key information to his superiors due to “neglect or other motivations,” thus inhibiting further security measures.
The inspector’s report published by Cumhuriyet states that Anti-Terror C Unit Commander Hüseyin Özgür Gür received an intelligence report on Sept. 14, 2015, which claimed that ISIL would target rallies with “more than one suicide bomber.” Gür failed to report this information to his superior, Anti-Terror Unit Head Hakan Duman.
“The aforementioned individual did not convey this information to his superior, the anti-terror unit head, and prevented his superiors from evaluating whether there is a need to cancel the rally, due to neglect or other motives,” the report stated. It added that Gür had conveyed “far less important information” to relevant authorities in the anti-terror unit.
The Feb. 25 report prepared by chief civil inspectors Özcan Bademci and Turen Ergün and chief police inspectors Ayhan Acet and Ertan Kara, also accuses Ankara’s then Chief of Police Kadri Kartal of failing to take the necessary safety measures despite blasts that had recently hit the southeastern province of Diyarbakır and the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa province. Both attacks in the southeast had targeted civilians close to the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Inspectors said police teams and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had sent a total of 62 intelligence reports over the 10 months leading to the Oct. 10 explosion, and the last report even included the name of Ankara suicide bomber Yunus Alagöz.
A request by the inspectors to launch investigations against Kartal, Gür, Duman, former intelligence department deputy chief and state security department deputy chief was rejected by the Ankara Governor’s Office. In addition, the chief public prosecutor decided not to exercise his right to object, instead filing a motion to dismiss the case.
Two suicide bombers detonated themselves on 10:04 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2015 in front of the Ankara main train station, where thousands of people had gathered for a peace rally a few weeks before the snap election on Nov. 1.
Meanwhile, Cumhuriyet also published a second report on April 12, detailing a confidential document issued by the police chief of the northeastern province of Kars, Faruk Karaduman, warning of ISIL attacks targeting touristic spots, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the HDP, and leftist organizations.
In an e-mail dated Oct. 28, 2015, Karaduman warned district police chiefs of ISIL sleeper cells in 70 Turkish provinces and asked for measures to be taken against possible ISIL attacks.