THE LEVANT – The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has acknowledged significant recruitment of Turkish nationals by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militant group in Iraq and Syria.
Officials have told Turkey’s parliament that at least 1,000 Turks were fighting with ISIL terrorists in Iraq and Syria. They said the Turks, offered lucrative salaries, were recruited in mosques, schools and even from the security forces.
“ISIL is recruiting throughout the region, and Turkey is no exception,” an official said, who asked to be unnamed.
The figure was released in wake of allegations by the parliamentary opposition that Turkey was being used for ISIL terrorist group recruitment and training. The opposition cited videos that showed purported ISIL militants at a celebration outside Istanbul in late July.
Turkey has long been accused of tolerating ISIL as part of efforts to maintain the war in neighboring Syria. Opposition sources said Turkish intelligence facilitated the supply of terrorists and weapons from Turkey to Syria.
“The Justice and Development Party has shut up when faced with the ISIL terrorist organization, and still says nothing about it,” opposition leader Faruk Logoglu said on Aug. 4.
The rise of ISIL has resulted in sectarian attacks in Turkey. They included an attack on a Shi’ite mosque and reports of recruitment of Turkish nationals for the war in neighboring Iraq.
So far, the government has not responded to opposition demands to disclose ISIL activities and whereabouts. Instead, Erdogan and his aides have complained of lack of NATO support to help control Turkey’s huge border with Iraq and Syria.
“Before it is too late, the intelligence and security forces must be on full alert to stop the growth of these extremist groups, recruitment to ISIL or other terrorist organizations, while the government should issue strong statements that it won’t tolerate these inclinations in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-sect society,” the Turkish daily Hurriyet said on Aug.2.