Turkey Foils New Year's Eve ISIS Suicide Plot

Back on July 20, a suicide bomber detonated in Suruc, Turkey, killing 33 people. 

Suruc is a mere stone’s throw away from the Syrian border and from Kobani, where many of those killed were planning on assisting in a rebuilding effort.

The attack was quickly attributed to Islamic State. Two days later, two Turkish police officers were killed by the PKK in Ceylanpinar. Kurdish militants said the men had cooperated with ISIS. Their deaths, PKK’s Syrian affiliate said, were “in revenge for the massacre in Suruc.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the death of the officers as an excuse to reignite a longstanding conflict with the PKK. In order to persuade NATO to sanction the crackdown, he cited Suruc on the way to explaining that in addition to the PKK, Ankara would target ISIS. There was widespread suspicion that the government was somehow involved in sparking the violence as a way of undercutting HDP’s success at the ballot box in June. 

Less than three months later, a suicide attack in Ankara killed 102 people. It was the worst attack in Turkey’s history. It too was attributed to ISIS. 

“Although intelligence reports have claimed that ISIL militants Abdurrahman Alagoz, Yunus Emre Alagoz and Omer Deniz Dundar were preparing suicide attacks, they were not captured,” Today’s Zaman wrote, earlier this month. “They entered Turkey from the Syrian border and masterminded the blasts that killed 135 people, 102 in Ankara and 33 in the Suruc district of Sanl?urfa.”

Why were they not captured, you ask? Well, that’s an open question. As TZ goes on to say, “Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says that even when [the government] has already uncovered the identities of potential suicide bombers, police cannot take action until suspects engage in an attack.”

Apparently, that policy has since changed because on Wednesday, Turkey arrested two suspects the government says are members of ISIS and were conspiring to carry out suicide attacks on New Year’s Eve in Ankara.

“Turkish police have arrested two suspects over an alleged suicide bomb plot to attack New Year's Eve revelers in the capital Ankara,” AA reports, adding that “the suspects - identified as M.C. and A.Y. - planned to attack the city’s main square, which is the scene of annual Dec. 31 celebrations.” Here’s a bit more: 

Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s office said the suspects had targeted two locations near Kizilay, a shopping and restaurant district in the heart of the city, and were equipped with explosive vests packed with steel ball bearings.

 


 

Prosecutors said the arrests were carried out in Yakup Abdal, a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Ankara, but gave no detail on the timing of the police operation.

 

The suspects are being held by counter-terrorist police.

Although AFP says "Turkish authorities have over the past months cracked down on the group's so-called "sleeper cells" throughout the country," those who follow the situation closely know that it's virtually impossible to say with any degree of certainty what the government's official stance on Islamic State is.

What we do know is that Ankara routinely funnels weapons and money to various opposition groups in Syria and is aligned with the Saudis and other regional Sunni benefactors when it comes to bolstering anti-Assad elements. We also know that Turkey has in the past been accused of turning a blind eye to the flow of foreign fighters entering Syria to join ISIS. More recently, we've seen reels of footage depicting what certainly look like oil tanker trucks speeding across the border into Turkey with impunity suggesting that Ankara is helping to faciliate the sale of illegal ISIS crude. 

All of that raises questions about Wednesday's arrest and on that note, we'll simply close with the following quote from the Russian Defense Ministry which suggests that at the same time Ankara was busy arresting two alleged ISIS suicide bombers, the flow of ISIS oil into Turkey continues:

"A convoy of oil tanker trucks heading to the Syrian-Turkish border escorted by vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft weapons was uncovered during aerial reconnaissance in the Kafr Nabl area of Idlib province. Russian aviation deployed a Su-34 aircraft to strike this target."