Turkish police capture senior al-Qaeda figures in major operation
Turkish anti-terrorist police raided the offices the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) branch in Kilis. AFP Photo.Two senior al-Qaeda members have been captured during yesterday’s simultaneous operations in six provinces, daily Hürriyet has reported.
Al-Qaeda’s senior member in Turkey, Halis B., along with the second-in-command in the Middle East, İbrahim Ş., were among the 28 people who were detained.
Some three high-ranking names from al-Qaeda have reportedly escaped to Syria before the operation.
Anti-terror and intelligence teams reportedly launched an investigation 15 months ago when they detected al-Qaeda was reorganizing in the eastern province of Van.
The detained suspects are facing charges such as sending people to fight in Syria, helping to transfer of al-Qaeda members to come from Afghanistan and Pakistan, collecting money to help al-Qaeda, providing and distributing aid and weapons to be used in attacks in Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and organizing illegal actions.
Police raided on a local Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) branch as part of the simultaneous operations which were conducted in six provinces including Istanbul, Van, Kilis, Adana, Gaziantep and Kayseri.
Only a few hours after the raids, two anti-terror police unit chiefs who were among the teams who planned and carried out the operation have been dismissed.
Both the Kilis province anti-terror department chief Devlet Çıngı and Van province anti-terror department chief Serdar Bayraktutan were relocated by a sudden decision from the respective Governor’s Office with which they are affiliated.
Meanwhile, bodyguards of the eight prosecutors who launched the anti al-Qaeda operations, have been replaced.
House of ruling AKP mayoral candidate searched
Meanwhile, the house of ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidate at the Van Mayorality Osman Nuri Gülaçar was searched early this morning as part of the operations.
“Although the police know that we could comply with an invitation from prosecutors, carrying out an operation at 5 a.m. in the morning is meaningful. Despite this, no element of a crime has been found in the search,” Gülaçar told reporters.
As AKP’s former head of province, Gülaçar had already been taken briefly into custody in 2009 along with 15 other suspects during another operation against al-Qaeda.
Gülaçar condemned the operation, saying that it intended to equate charity organizations with illegal terror groups.
Claims against İHH wrong
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç commented on the raids during a press conference on Jan. 15, saying that allegations of the İHH having relations with al-Qaeda were wrong.
"I found the operation insteresting. The İHH is a legal organization, it is working for humanitarian goals," Arınç said, adding that if there were specific accusations then evidence and documents should be presented.
The İHH released an official press statement Jan. 14 concerning the raid, with General Secretary Yaşar Kutluay saying the operation was aimed at preventing the İHH from sending humanitarian aid to Syria.