Turkey probes for ISIL link in Istanbul attack

Turkey probes for ISIL link in Istanbul attack

The profiles of the perpetrators of this week's attacks in Paris and Istanbul attack are completely different. The former suggests two French brothers of Algerian origin, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, whose links with extremist jihadist terror organizations were disclosed by intelligence organizations in Western countries. Saïd Kouachi is known to have traveled to Yemen in 2011 to receive terrorist training and the brothers were under surveillance (although not very successfully) of the French secret service and anti-terror units.

For the Istanbul bomber, believed to be Diana Ramazova, a Russian citizen of Chechen origin, we do have not much information, except that she entered Turkey in June 2014 as a tourist. She was among nearly 40 million foreigners who enter Turkey as tourists every year, and neither her appearance nor her profile would alert any security official to the fact that she would one day detonate herself in front of a police station. Although there is no official statement yet about the bomber’s organizational links, security and intelligence officials are looking into her potential ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

But still, these two deadly attacks could be linked, according to Turkish security officials, whose analysis can be summarized as follows: “If this attack in Istanbul is really related to ISIL, then we might correlate it with the attack in Paris. This could lead us to think that both attacks might have been orchestrated by the secret services of certain countries, given the fact that Turkey and France share similar lines on the Syrian issue.”

That would be among other reasons why Turkey immediately offered intelligence, cooperation and political support to French institutions. Turkish officials are conducting their own probe on whether the Kouachi brothers have ever been to Turkey or used the country as a transit route. In any case, it’s certain that Turkish-French intelligence and security cooperation will be intensified in due course. 

Turkey, France share same line on Syria

It’s true that unlike the United States and other top Western countries, Turkey and France are of the view that Bashar al-Assad must go immediately and the military means used against ISIL in Syria should also target the regime’s forces. French President François Hollande recently voiced his regret that there was no military intervention in Syria at a time when it would have been justified due to the regime’s use of chemical weapons in August 2013.

“There was no intervention and now Daesh [ISIL], a terrorist movement, has installed itself there and some are starting to say that we should finally start talking with Bashar Al-Assad,” Hollande said a few days before the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The policy that Hollande expressed is fully in line with the Turkish position, which sees Bashar al-Assad’s regime as the source of the birth of ISIL and believes that the unrest in the region will not be resolved unless al-Assad leaves office for the sake of a more inclusive government.

The analysis made in Ankara suggests that such terror attacks will put ISIL and al-Qaeda-linked Sunni foreign fighters on the forefront of the agenda, especially at a time when Russia is initiating a new action for the settlement of the process. The Russian initiative does not necessarily envisage a transition process for Bashar al-Assad, who is in the process of restoring his legitimacy in the eyes of many Western powers, which now see ISIL as the primary threat.

Intensified intel cooperation

The consecutive attacks in France have shown how the threat of terrorism is looming in many Western European countries, with British intelligence warning of massive attacks in other countries on the continent. Turkish security officials recall that Turkey issued similar warnings to its European interlocutors in the past and even offered to create a joint database of suspected foreign fighters.

European countries turned down Turkey’s proposal at that time, officials said, but with the recent attack in Paris, the level of intelligence and security cooperation between the parties will surely increase.