AKP-ISIS collaboration in Ankara massacre?
The aftermath of the Oct. 10 Anakara massacre—in which some 100 were killed in a double suicide attack on a peace rally—has been a study in the Orwellian. Authorities have arrested at least 12 sympathizers of the Kurdish PKK rebels, who are accused of tweeting messages indicating foreknowledge of the attack. But the actual tweets indicate they were warning of a potential ISIS attack on the rally. "What if ISIL blows up?!," one tweeted. Another voiced fear of an ISIS "intervention" at the event. This was an all too legitimate speculation, given the similar terror attack on a gathering of leftist youth in the southern town of Suruc just three months earlier. In fact, Turkish police have named one of the Ankara bombers as Yunus Emre Alagöz, the brother of Sheikh Abdurrahman Alagöz, the ISIS operative who blew himself up in the Suruc attack. (The Guardian, Oct. 15; Anadolu Agency, Oct. 14)
Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Kurdish-led Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which had called the Ankara rally, responded to the arrests by repeating his charge that the bombings were the result of "cooperation" between ISIS the AKP, Turkey's ruling conservative party. He dismissed the implication of a PKK hand in the blasts. "If there [were] even just a one-in-a-million possibility of the PKK being behind this attack, then they [the government] would make it obligatory for the media to report on the incident," he told reporters. "This illustrates that the AKP and ISIL were behind this attack." (Hurriyet Daily News, Oct. 15)
Demirtas also harshly criticized the government's crackdown on the Internet and media. On Oct. 14, an Ankara court issued a sweeping ban targeting "all kinds of news, interviews, criticism and similar publications in print, visual, social media and all kinds of media on the Internet" covering the suicide blast investigation. Asked Demirtas: "What is the prime minister trying to hide? ...Do they believe they can hide it this way? ...People already know everything, so let them express their opinion freely." (France24, Hurriyet Daily News, Oct. 15)
The AKP government has for months been playing a sinister game of equating ISIS and the militantly secular, anti-ISIS PKK as equally "terrorist"—while the AKP itself is accused of covertly collaborating with ISIS. Turkey has painted its military intervention in Iraq as an anti-ISIS operation, but its warplanes have actually been bombing the PKK forces that are fighting ISIS. In Syria, it could be even worse. Last year, David L. Phillips of Columbia University issued a study (online at HuffPo) on "ISIS-Turkey Links," citing numerous reports of Turkish security and border forces collaborating with the jihadists. In addition to allowing ISIS to use Turkish territory as a rear-guard, receive medical services for wounded fighters and sell black-market oil, the report cites claims in the Turkish press that ISIS openly maintained a recruitment office in Istanbul.
In January of this year, Turkish gendarmerie troops intercepted three trucks loaded with weapons. The trucks were found to belong to Turkey's National Intelligence Service (MIT). The search was ordered by a local prosecutor who received a tip of an arms shipment to "al-Qaeda" in Syria. (Which would indicate Nusra Front, the Qaeda-aligned faction in Syria, and rivals of ISIS.) Did any heads roll at the MIT? No, but the prosecutor was removed from his post, and the Gendarmerie troops involved in the search were charged with espionage.
Another clue came after US Special Operations forces raided the east Syrian home of ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf in May. Documents and flash drives seized in the raid revealed links "so clear" and "undeniable" between Turkey and ISIS "that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara," an anonymous senior Western intelligence official told The Guardian. Abu Sayyaf was responsible for overseeing ISIS oil and gas operations in Syria, which are said to net the Islamic State up to $10 million per month in black market sales. (Business Insider, July 29) Nothing came of the supposed revelations, of course—but chucking NATO ally Turkey overboard would be a very big deal for Washington and the Western powers. They can afford to turn a blind eye.
Activists on the ground in Turkey cannot. After the Suruc attack, Demirtas similarly said it could not have been carried out without the complicity of Turkish security forces. AKP-ISIS collaboration is starting to look like a very inconvenient truth.