This report will present and examine the significance of major security incidents that occurred in Turkey from Monday October 2nd, 2017 to Monday October 16th, 2017. The incidents are arranged in the following categories: Terrorism (PKK, Islamic State, FETÖ, Extreme Left Organizations), Narcotics, Murders, Illegal Migration and Military.

Key Findings:

  • The Gülen movement will turn to more traditional methods of covert communication if Turkey criminalize the use of encrypted messaging applications

  • Turkey’s large urban centers are hideouts for senior Islamic State militants who seek to evade detection by security agencies

  • The undisrupted drug trafficking routes in central Turkey creates local economic dependence on drugs and increase of violence

  • Turkey might be called to confront multiple rivals in northern Syria after its forces deployed in Idlib Province

    Introduction

3156 operations were carried out by the Gendarmerie Special Operations (JÖH), Police Special Operations (PÖH), Gendarmerie Commando Units, air and ground units of the Turkish Armed Forces. A total of 9301 people were detained: 2225 for terrorism offences (PKK / KCK 341, IS 101, FETÖ 1756, extreme left 36), 6798 for drug offences and Illicit trafficking crimes, 725 for cybercrime, and 269 for human trafficking.

TERRORISM

Summary

During the domestic counter terrorism operations 22 terrorists were killed, 22 were captured and 18 surrendered. Total: 62.

The following weaponry and material were seized:

PKK/KCK

Summary

The Turkish Armed Forces continued ground and air operations against PKK positions in Southeast Turkey. Drones, Attack Helicopters and F-16 Fighter Jets hit PKK targets resulting in many PKK casualties. Turkish soldiers found and seized weapons, explosives and IEDs, as well as other supplies, hidden underground and in caves. Major counter terrorism operations were carried out by Turkish Special Forces during the curfews declared in Elazığ and Bitlis, with aerial and ground means, against PKK hideouts. A number of PKK members and supporters were arrested in major cities of Turkey’s Eastern side. PKK insurgents attacked either with heavy guns against security/monitoring posts or detonated roadside placed IEDs during the passages of foot patrols and military vehicles and killed security personnel and soldiers.

PKK Major Incidents

PKK incidents

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341 people accused of belonging to and collaborating with PKK/KCK were detained, 17 surrendered and 22 PKK insurgents were killed during the operations. The PKK insurgents were killed, captured or surrendered at the following locations:

Arrests

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ISLAMIC TERRORIST GROUPS

Islamic State

Summary

Turkish counter terrorism operations against Islamic State militants based in Turkey led to a total of 101 IS suspects detained across Turkey. Syrian and Iraqi nationals were caught accused of recruiting members for the Islamic State, plotting against Turkey and for providing logistical and operational support to IS operatives. Guns and organizational documents were found at the locations the IS militants were arrested.

Islamic State Incidents

IS incidents

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Notable Incidents

A.     03/10/2017. Senior IS official caught in Ankara – Haydar Kerim, code-named ‘Ebu Yusuf’, a senior IS official, thought to have died in Iraq, was arrested in Ankara. 40 false identifications were found at his house during the operation.

COMMENT – The case of Haydar Kerim reveals a relatively frequently used tactic of IS and other terrorist organizations to redirect the focus security authorities have on specific militants. The organization announces the militant’s supposed death after an attack, or they stage an attack using civilians as victims, supposingly them being the targets. The real targets, having actually survived the attack, remain hidden for a period of time and when they are certain that security agencies are no longer after them they relocate, use false documents to mislead the authorities, change their appearance drastically and adopt a new identity to remain undetected. Terrorists choose to relocate to another country so they become less identifiable and establish a ‘shadow’ network, meaning that its members operate under a central command that is not traceable – COMMENT ENDS

FETÖ

The crackdown on suspected FETÖ members continues with arrest warrants continuously issued for businessmen, teachers, active and retired military personnel, university students, and even for an employee of the US Consulate in Istanbul, incident which led to the deterioration of US-Turkey relations. The majority of the 1756 people detained are accused of using the encrypted messaging app ByLock, an application considered as the main means of communication between FETÖ members.

Major FETÖ Arrests

Feto

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COMMENT – During the interrogation of the 50 students detained in Konya it was announced by the authorities that the students were using an encrypted communication programme similar to the ByLock programme. As expected, FETÖ members have changed means of communication since the previously used ByLock app is now the major incriminating evidence for suspected FETÖ members. The authorities did not mention which app the students were using. There are many available options of encrypted messaging and file exchange apps, such as Telegram or Signal, that Turkish authorities have no access to. If the Turkish Courts criminalize the use of publicly available encrypted communication apps, FETÖ members will most likely abandon them and turn to more traditional  methods of covert communication. That would initially limit their capabilities until they receive the training required to operate in such way. When that knowledge is acquired and applied amongst the Gülen movement members, Turkey will have to deal with an organization closely resembling a foreign intelligence agency operating on Turkish soil – COMMENT ENDS

EXTREME LEFT TERRORIST GROUPS

Summary

36 people in contact with or linked to extreme left-wing terrorist organizations were taken into custody.

NARCOTICS

Summary

The Turkish Counter Narcotics Police Units carried out a high number of operations against drug dealers in major cities, such as Istanbul and Bursa, and at rural areas of southeastern Turkey. They intercepted three trucks carrying heavy loads of heroin in Tekirdağ, Silvan/Diyarbakir and Edremit/Van, and found and destroyed more than a ton of cannabis and 7500 cannabis plants in Diyarbakir’s Kocaköy district.

According to the Turkish Interior Ministry 4994 counter narcotics operations were conducted and the following drugs were found and seized: 3816 kg Cannabis, 871 kg Heroin, 5 kg Cocaine, 6 kg Synthetic cannabinoid (Bonzai), 23 kg Methamphetamine, 736.000 drug pills, 88805 Cannabis plants. Total market value: 81.020.580 TL

Narcotics Incidents

 

Narcotics

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COMMENT – The incidents recorded in the Intelligence Fusion’s Database since 01/08/2017 show that large quantities of heroin were found loaded in trucks in Ağrı and Van, close to the Turkish-Iranian border and in Adana, with the Port of Mersin most likely being the point of entry. In central Van three major incidents are recorded showing the province’s drug trafficking networks and role as a transit area for incoming drugs. Trucks loaded with heroin are then intercepted in the wider Istanbul area and in areas close to the Greek borders with the latest incident recorded in Tekirdağ, 70 km far from the Greek-Turkish border, when a truck loaded with 152 kg of heroin was stopped at a police road check. The lack of recorded incidents in central Turkey means that the heroin loaded trucks which are not intercepted in the southeastern areas have no difficulty in reaching the western exit points to the Balkans. That shows that the Turkish authorities mainly direct their counter narcotics operations on the points of entry and exit either because they lack technical and human resources to monitor the vast areas of central Turkey or because it is operationally easier -and probably more efficient- to establish monitor posts at the exit points that the drugs are supposed to pass through. The routes of drugs running through central Turkey create local economic dependency based on drug use and trafficking, which generate further increase of other forms of criminal activity- COMMENT ENDS

MURDERS

Murders and Small Arms Fire Incidents

 

Murders

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COMMENT – Guns are fired on a daily basis in Turkey when disputes are escalated to armed fights. It is mostly hunting rifles and pistols fired on the victims. The incidents range from domestic violence, passion crimes, debt and land differences, to revenge attacks, business related hostilities and social occasions such as marriages. People fall victims of armed violence even during disputes for issues of minor importance such as the price and quality of vegetable/market goods. Knives are also used during the above escalated disputes resulting to people seriously injured or killed. Setting aside the possession of arms by organized crime members and their premeditated murders, it is common for people to either carry a gun or a knife which they will not hesitate to use if they get involved in a situation that they feel undermined, insulted, offended or provoked. The widespread trend of firing a gun as a means to resolve disputes cost the lives of hundreds of people in Turkey, directly or indirectly involved with the shooter/incident, and adds on at a social environment tending towards lawlessness – COMMENT ENDS

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

Summary

Large numbers of immigrants, mostly from Pakistan and Afghanistan, were caught in buses en route to Istanbul. The buses were stopped and searched at the northern provinces of Turkey. It was reported that two of the buses had as departure point the city of Ağrı, close to the Iranian border. During another police road check a minibus carrying 54 immigrants was stopped and searched in Van close to the Iranian border as well.

Major Human Trafficking Incidents

 The Turkish Interior Ministry has announced that 9455 illegal immigrants were detained, 1171 of them on boats at the Aegean Sea attempting to cross the border to Greece, and that 269 human smugglers were arrested.

MILITARY

IDLIB OPERATION

On October 7th President Erdogan stated during his speech to the AK Party that “There’s a serious operation in Syria’s Idlib today and it will continue”,  signaling the beginning of operations in Idlib/Syria for the establishment of the de-escalation zone agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran in Astana, Kazakhstan earlier in September. Until that day Turkish tanks and armored reconnaissance vehicles, artillery, and other armored vehicles and Turkish troops have been amassing at the Turkish-Syrian borderline between the Hatay and Idlib Provinces.

Turkish armored vehicles at the Turkish/Syrian border in Cilvegözü/Reyhanlı/Hatay

From October 8th to October 11th, Turkish army reconnaissance teams entered Idlib and traveled under Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s (HTS) escort scouting the area for secure and strategic locations. It was reported by local sources that HTS and the Turkish teams were negotiating the terms of the agreement for the deployment of Turkish Army in Idlib. Meanwhile, additional armored vehicles and soldiers were amassing at the Turkish-Syrian border.

Turkish Reconnaissance Teams and HTS delegation alleged meeting –Social Media Open Sources

On October 12th Turkish soldiers and a convoy of about 30 military vehicles cross into Syria from the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing and headed to Sheikh Barakat Mountain.

On October 14th  The Syrian Foreign Ministry released a statement on state media saying that the entry of Turkish military vehicles into rebel-held northwest Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing was a violation of international law and demanded that Turkish troops leave immediately.

As of October 15th, nearly 200 troops are stationed in Idlib (Source: FSA militant). At least four convoys carrying scores of armoured vehicles and equipment have been stationed in several locations and the setup of observation posts at strategical positions is continuous.

Turkish Observation Posts and Area of Control in Idlib Province/Syria- As of October 15th 2017 – Open Sources

IDLIB OPERATION TIMELINE

Timelines

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COMMENT – In early May 2017 Idlib’s dominant jihadist militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) threatened to attack any power involved in the talks held in Astana/Kazakhstan (Iran, Russia, Turkey those are), or other groups that seek to protect them, which would attempt to enter Idlib/Syria. At that time Turkey denied any Turkish military plans of an upcoming operation in Idlib. Since late August 2017 Turkey has been gradually increasing its military presence at its border with Idlib with armored vehicles deployed at the border. On September 15th a final agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran was reached for the establishment of a de escalation zone in Idlib. On October 7th, when President Erdogan stated that ‘There’s a serious operation in Syria’s Idlib’ HTS released a statement accusing other rebel groups of corruption, working with Russia against “Syrian Jihad”, and threatened any group which would enter Idlib to be prepared to engage in fierce fights – but Turkey was not mentioned at all. The obvious agreement on the Idlib Operation between Turkey (backing Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels and supported by Russia and Iran) and HTS militants (sworn enemies of Russia, FSA and Turkey through associated alliance) serves two goals: a) Turkey gains control of strategic areas facing Kurdish occupied territories and b) HTS do not engage in armed conflicts either with the YPG or Turkey. HTS’s disadvantageous position is shown in a HTS statement for the Idlib Operation saying that ‘…. that is because of the state of necessity the mujahedin are passing and how their enemies have converged on them’. In the internal political front, Turkey displays a unity over the Idlib operation and a decisive independence when it comes to Turkey’s rights to defend its ‘backyard’. Turkish politicians of the highest ranks expressed their intentions over the Idlib Operation. Turkey’s Defense Minister vaguely stated that ‘Turkey must be in Syria’s Idlib until the threat is over’, without clarifying the threat or the means it will use to counter it. President’s Erdogan’s statement that ‘Turkey shares a border with Idlib. Thus, we should take our own measures’ is another indicator of the distance Turkey has taken away from the collective decision making processes of NATO and its Western allies, and its shift towards regional alliances. The Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim said that ‘the aim of activities in Syria’s Idlib is to prevent migration wave into Turkey’, reminding EU officials Turkey’s leverage on them. The majority of the political opposition expressed their wide support for Idlib operation and emphasized on the cross-border terrorist risks. Turkey has deeply interfered in the Syrian civil war with its troops establishing military posts in Idlib. The initially claimed conflict-preventive objectives of the operation can swiftly alter to offencive ones and drag Turkey into clashes with HTS, the US backed YPG, or with a wider front of rebel-jihadi groups united against the Idlib ‘occupiers’ – COMMENT ENDS

Period: Monday October 2nd, 2017 – Monday October 16th, 2017

Panagiotis Vasilias

Courtesy of InfoIntelligenceFusion