Former intel officer warns of jihadist sleeper cells in Turkey

Former intel officer warns of jihadist sleeper cells in Turkey

Former intel officer warns of jihadist sleeper cells in Turkey

Global and regional developments necessitated a transformation of the national intelligence agency, yet these changes need to be in line with democratic standards, Cevat Öneş [L] had previously warned in an interview with Hürriyet Daily News.

A former top official of Turkish intelligence has warned that jihadists are "highly likely" to activate their sleeper cells in Turkey in the face of the recent developments in the region.

"There are sleeper cells [of the jihadists in Turkey]. Particularly following the latest developments in Syria and Iraq, these elements that engaged in regional conflicts are highly likely to be used in Turkey, too. Security forces and politicians should consider the issue carefully," daily Cumhuriyet quoted Cevat Öneş as saying in an interview on Jan. 10.

Öneş is a former deputy undersecretary of Turkey's National Intelligence Agency (MİT).

Turkish authorities have been on alert since a female suicide bomber detonated herself at an Istanbul police station in the touristic area of Sultanahmet, killing a policeman on Jan. 6, a week after a far-left group attacked another police station.

Turkey have recently launched a probe on a possible link of the Sultanahmet suicide bombing, which was carried out by a Daghestani-origin Russian citizen, with jihadist groups, including the the Levant (ISIL).

Ankara had also offered assistance to the French authorities for the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the violent incidents in Paris that followed it in the past few days.

Öneş described the militant attacks in Istanbul and Paris as "very complex, important developments." He claimed there is a "high probability" that the Sultanahmet attack was linked to the ISIL, Al-Qaeda or its variants.

"Turkey is a country on the transit route of jihadist militants. This is why there is a risk," Öneş said, adding that security forces should also take "uncompromising precautions" against Turkish and foreign jihadists. "Maybe the social risk of the establishment of a jihadist, Salafi ideology in Turkey is not yet too high, but the country has appropriate environments to accommodate jihadists," he noted.

Former intelligence officer also stressed the importance of overcoming political differences in such challenging times.

"As the general elections approach, certain steps should be taken to improve the democratic system while leaving behind the discourses that encourage nationalist and divisive sentiments for sake of reinforcing masses to get more votes," Öneş suggested.