Anne Speckhard and Molly Ellenberg As published in Homeland Security Today: Samantha Elhassani, an American woman…
Second ISIS Suicide Attack Team Plotting Major Attack was Caught June 3rd in Sanliurfa, Turkey
by: Ahmet S. Yayla, Ph.D. & Anne Speckhard, Ph.D.
Urfa (Sanliurfa), the city in Southern Turkey that ISIS cadres have referred to as their R&R destination was the site where a second suicide attack team was just arrested. Caught with explosives and automatic machine guns, all four, would-be terrorists were from Syria. They were identified by Turkish national police by their initials as: M.E.S., I.C., N.A., A.H.
Sanliurfa is located close to the Syrian Turkish border with Syria and nearby to the ISIS smuggling routes between Turkey and Syria. The city center is only 20 miles away from the border. Chillingly, ISIS has sent cadres across the border and carried out multiple murders of Syrian activists living in Urfa over the past twelve months. Now it appears they have sent sleeper cells as well—to carry out major suicide attacks inside Turkey.
During the police investigation it was revealed that the suicide attackers arriving 2 months ago, had been instructed by their ISIS senders to carry out a suicide attack against a second airport in Turkey—an attack similar to the recent Istanbul Ataturk Airport attack. The terrorist team hid themselves in Eyyubiye, a suburb of Sanliurfa, while getting ready for the attacks. This is an area where many of the four hundred thousand Syrian refugees in Sanliurfa reside. Sanliurfa, along with the neighboring cities Gaziantep, Kilis and Hatay host almost 1 million Syrian refugees and now it seems that ISIS is taking advantage of Turkey’s liberal and generous policy of allowing Syrian refugees to reside as guests inside Turkey while they wait out the conflicts there.
These border cities of Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis and Hatay have all been used by ISIS as a conduit for transferring fighters and also for their logistical needs—facts that we’ve have confirmed in our ISIS Defectors Interviews Project (the results reported in our book, ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate and in many articles). There were also several ISIS related attacks and terrorist activities over past months in those cities. Currently, security and terrorism experts believe that several ISIS fighters are kept in each of those cities as sleeper cells, awaiting orders from the terrorist organization for future attacks.
At their arrest, police found with the cell: one suicide vest, 1 AK-47 Kalashnikov Assault rifle, 2 handguns with silencers, 6 handmade TNT IEDs (improvised explosive devices) with attached magnets, 12 larger TNT handmade IEDs with metal balls, and a large quantity of bullets for the Kalashnikov and hand guns.
The police have reported to news outlets that the ISIS suicide team plotted to carry out their attack on the last day of the Ramadan Feast, July 7th 2016. As a result, once detected by police, to thwart danger to the public, the arrests were carried out a day before their planned attack.
Among the intel leaked to the press, was the fact that the Sanliurfa ISIS cell was instructed to carry out their attack with an explosives laden vehicle—shooting from that car while driving and then triggering the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) they had prepared, against a specific target. This was to be an attack they were determined would dominate world news. So we see, although ISIS is rapidly losing territory in Syria and Iraq and as a result, its ability to continue as the most well financed group in history, it is still determined to continue with its victory narrative—now turning it sites on terrorist attacks in the West. Turkey thankfully thwarted this one.
Meanwhile on June 13th, 2016, in Gaziantep around 12:30 pm an intelligence police officer was shot in the head in the middle of the city by Hanefi C., sixteen-years-old ISIS member who was being followed by the police intelligence. The police officer is in critical condition in a hospital at present. The teen ISIS cadre realized he was under pursuit and entered the terrorist cell’s apartment, taking his gun from the apartment and came out to shoot the police officer following him in his head. Then, he fled the scene immediately after.
Turkey in the last years have been restructuring its police force as a result of a government shake-up and most of the officers working for the counterterrorism and intelligence departments do not currently have the required skills and experience to counter the threat coming from different terrorist organizations. This police shake-up occurred following the police investigation against some prominent members of the government at the end of 2013. Almost all police chiefs, managers and officers working for critical departments including counterterrorism and operations, intelligence, organized crime, SWAT and state security departments were either fired, dismissed, or arrested in what appears to be false charges to what appears to be attempts to ensure there would not be any more corruption-related investigations against any prominent members of the government.
After the major overhauling and replacement of key and experienced personnel in those departments, many officers from non-related expertise areas such as traffic offenses or regular office job-related officers, without experience and proper training were assigned to work for those critical departments. This situation has caused a major disruption in the investigations and operations against terrorist organizations like ISIS and others. Likewise, many ongoing intelligence operations in Turkey were halted in 2014 and 2015 and almost no operations were carried out against ISIS in Turkey in 2014 and 2015. Of course, this situation caused a major interruption in the fight against terrorism and ISIS took full advantage to freely establish themselves stronger than ever. Now, Turkey is paying the price by losing hundreds of lives to ISIS terror simply because there is not enough established, experienced and well-trained police to counter the problem of terrorism even if there were a desire to do so!
Ahmet S. Yayla, Ph.D. is the Deputy Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). He is also Adj. Professor at the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University and formerly served as Professor and the Chair of the Sociology Department at Harran University in Turkey. Dr. Yayla earned both his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Criminal Justice and Information Science from the University of North Texas in the United States. Dr. Yayla served as the Chief of Counterterrorism and Operations Division for the Turkish National Police.
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine and Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). She is also the author of Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS and coauthor of Undercover Jihadi and Warrior Princess. Dr. Speckhard has interviewed nearly 500 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, West Bank, Chechnya, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and many countries in Europe. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles.
Both authors are sought after counter-terrorism experts and have consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications
Reference for this article is Yayla A & Speckhard, A (July 13, 2016) Second ISIS Suicide Attack Team Plotting Major Attack was Caught June 3rd in Sanliurfa Turkey, ICSVE Brief Reports.