A deep security gap over local ISIL members

A deep security gap over local ISIL members

Years ago, when I was working for daily Radikal, I and our Ankara representative, Murat Yetkin, had a chat with a top-level security official. At those times, there was al-Qaeda. That official said, “Turkey is catching dozens of al-Qaeda members each month and we are handing them over to our international interlocutors in appropriate ways.” Then he added this was strictly off the record. 

Why was this off the record? I learned the reason of this sensitivity later: Ankara did not want to stage a high profile and boasting stance about the measures taken against terror organizations using the Islam religion. Because these organizations actually had serious and potentially domestic grassroots, it did not want to provoke and mobilize them.

How many “mujahedeen” went to Afghanistan at the time? To Bosnia, to Chechenia, to Iraq and now to Syria? Not all of them but an overwhelming majority of them went because of “jihad.”

The same top level security official, in another conversation, explained about the deep security gap that occurred at the beginning of the 1980’s when the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) started its attacks.

Now, it looks as if Turkey is experiencing a similar situation about the jihadists going to Syria and Iraq and especially those joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

One of the biggest security negligence indicators in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Diyarbakır rally bombing incident was that Diyarbakır police visited the bomber in his hotel earlier to notify him of his draft evader status.

The head of the Diyarbakır police, Halis Böğürcü, called me the other day to explain certain matters. No information was processed in the computer system about the bomber. Actually, there was a system used by the gendarmerie, but that was not compatible with the police system. The brother of the bomber was processed by prosecutors but the bomber himself was not wanted. 

Even if he were recognized as a “terror-related person,” police have limited authority, according to the director. “He would have been questioned; if he was charged with a crime, we would take him to the prosecutor. If not and if he had been a minor we could have sent him to his family. If he is over 18 then our only option is to release him,” he said.

The bomber was professionally trained. Even though he was found by police in his hotel, he did not chicken out and went on with his act. He went to the rally square in the morning at 10:30 a.m. before security was there and planted the two bombs. One he placed in a bin; the other he gave to a vendor. Then he went in and out of the venue twice and was given a body search each time. The sniffing dog which has world records in this field failed to determine the bomb was in the trash bin. 

Police director Böğrücü said the bomber had no local contacts. He had not received help locally for his attack or had any local ties. 

We do not know much about the suicide bomber or bombers at Suruç, but there are similarities between the two attacks and these similarities point to a deep security gap. 

Maybe the suicide bomber or bombers in Suruç did not have local contacts but definitely they had certain ties within Turkey. That means cooperation beyond the local framework was needed, as well as a joint data base.  
Without overcoming these security gaps, it will not be easy to cope with local members of ISIL.