Turkish intelligence officers ordered the nation’s border police not to inspect truckloads of bomb-making materials shipped by companies in Turkey to Islamic State operatives in Syria in recent years, a former top Turkish counterterrorism official said.
Although Ankara denies it ever allowed private companies to supply the terrorist group, Ahmet S. Yayla, who held high-level Turkish law enforcement posts from 2010 to 2014, said the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a clandestine policy to facilitate cross-border transfers of explosive materials to the group.
“Police were told to close their eyes when large shipping container trucks rolled across the Syrian border with Turkey,” Mr. Yayla told The Washington Times. “The protocol was that if national intelligence was arranging the movement, there was [no] stopping for inspection.”
Mr. Yayla, an adjunct professor at George Mason University and an outspoken critic of the Turkish government, made the assertions amid growing scrutiny of Ankara’s suspected role in arming the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.
Turkish diplomats strenuously denied the charges during a half-hour meeting at the Turkish Embassy late last month. The diplomats insisted that they could speak only on background and therefore could not be quoted by name.
In a national address this week after the New Year’s massacre at an Istanbul nightclub claimed by the Islamic State, Mr. Erdogan strongly rejected charges that his government aided the jihadi terrorist group operating in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
“To present the country — which is leading the greatest struggle against [the Islamic State] — as one that is supporting terrorism is what the terror organization wants,” Mr. Erdogan said.
But a report last month by the Britain-based tracking group Conflict Armament Research said terrorists operating out of numerous workshops and factories in the Mosul area produced tens of thousands of mortar rounds, rockets and improvised explosive devices using precursor materials originating in Turkish factories.
“IS forces have a robust supply chain, whereby the group can repeatedly procure chemicals from the same supplier — almost exclusively from the Turkish domestic market,” the report concluded. “CAR’s findings continuously reinforce evidence that the group operates a major acquisition network in Turkey and has a direct line of supply from Turkey, through Syria, to the Mosul area.”
The research team in November found no evidence that Turkish companies were shipping directly to Islamic State agents and stopped short of detailing how the weapons supplies reached Mosul. It also did not find evidence of Turkish government complicity, but it suggested a lack of government oversight over the border.
“The appearance of these components in possession of IS forces, as little as one month following their lawful supply to commercial entities in the region, speaks to a lack of monitoring by national governments and companies alike,” the CAR report stated.
U.S. officials said they had concerns about the materiel supply flows but that the Erdogan government had moved to cut off the supply chain.
“For some time, we expressed serious concern about [the Islamic State’s] access to the Turkish border and its ability to use that as a way to replenish personnel and equipment,” State Department spokesman Michael Lavallee said this week. “The coalition worked with Turkey to finally close that border in September, and ISIL no longer has easy access to an international border.”
The accusations are not new to Turkish media owned by the opposition to Mr. Erdogan’s AK Party.
A widely reported scandal erupted early in 2014 after a prosecutor from Adana court ordered police there to stop and inspect three trucks after receiving tips about weapons transfers to the terrorist groups in Syria.
After the trucks were stopped, an officer with the national MiT intelligence service in one of the trucks refused to allow the search and said the cargo belonged to the MiT. A prosecutor on the scene searched the trucks and found concealed military-grade weapons and mortars hidden beneath medicine boxes.