Ankara mum on demand for explanation over use of British jihadists for swap

Ankara mum on demand for explanation over use of British jihadists for swap

Fevzi Kızılkoyun/ Sevil Erkuş ANKARA
Ankara mum on demand for explanation over use of British jihadists for swap

Two British citizens were handed over to ISIL jihadists by Turkey without notification to London, MI6 alleges. AP Photo

The U.K.’s Secret Intelligence Service MI6 is still awaiting an answer from the Turkish authorities regarding two British citizens, who MI6 alleges were handed over to jihadists by Turkey without notification to London.

The request for information was made in October, but the British authorities have yet to receive a response to their appeal, including from Turkey’s foreign and interior ministries, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.

According to MI6, Shabazz Suleiman, 19, and Hisham Folkard, 26, were captured as they tried to enter Turkish territory and were subsequently used as part of a prisoner swap deal in exchange for the release of 46 Turkish hostages held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq in September.

In July, MI6 informed Turkish intelligence about two British citizens that had left the country, arrived in Istanbul and crossed into Syria through Hatay in order to join ISIL, according to sources. The Turkish intelligence service then began to follow Suleiman and Folkard after receiving notice from Britain.

In August, the two British citizens were reportedly detained by Turkish security forces as they tried to cross from Syria to Turkey. However, Turkish authorities did not notify Britain and did not deport Folkard and Suleiman, who were sought by Interpol with a red notice. The British intelligence service then demanded information from the Turkish authorities over whether Folkard and Suleiman were used as part of the swap deal.

In October, British daily the Times reported that the deal involved a trade of 180 ISIL fighters in return for Turkish diplomats, including 46 Turkish citizens and three local Iraqis, who had been seized in the city of Mosul five months ago.

The British authorities asked Ankara about the alleged deal reported by the Times, but have not received a response yet.

The issue did not come up during a recent meeting between Foreign Minister Ahmet Çavuşoğlu and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Dec. 3 in Brussels, according to Turkish officials.

Political bargaining and diplomacy played a key role in freeing 49 hostages from extremist jihadists, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in September, while denying that a ransom was paid but hinting that a swap deal might have taken place to save the country’s Mosul consul general and 48 others.

No further official acknowledgement has come from Turkish authorities over the alleged deal.
Meanwhile, Denmark has also asked Turkey for an explanation regarding the release of the suspected shooter of a Danish writer in Turkey and has conveyed the issue to the European Union. The suspected shooter, Basil Hassan, a 27-year-old Danish citizen of Lebanese origin, was used as part of a prisoner swap conducted in exchange for the release of Turkish hostages.

Turkey has admitted that it has released a suspect wanted in connection with the attempted murder of a right-wing writer and critic of Islam in Copenhagen in 2013, after Danish politicians put pressure on Ankara.

The Turkish government has stated that the release of the suspect was not the “choice of the executive power, but a ruling of the judiciary.”