Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Thursday that the number of people Turkey has taken with family ties to the assassinated head of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is "close to double digits".
This is the latest in a series of statements by Turkish officials aimed at highlighting Ankara's vigilance over growing criticism of its negligence and complicity with ISIS.
The death of Baghdadi on October 26, less than five kilometers from the Turkish border in north-west Syria, has led to allegations that the terrorist leader "would have benefited from tacit Turkish protection."
A senior US official said: "Turkey did not provide any assistance in this operation and [Baghdadi] was located right next to their border. This shows you how well they are doing against ISIS.
Brett McGurk, a former US envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, said the United States had chosen to "launch this operation [against Baghdad] for hundreds of kilometers in Iraq, as opposed to facilities in Turkey, allied with NATO, across the border. "
It gets complicated
To complicate matters further for Erdogan, an article in The National on November 6 reported talks with Iraqi intelligence officials, saying that one of Baghdadi's brothers had been to Istanbul several times since. the end of 2018.
As shown by the designations of Islamic State financiers based in Turkey by the US Treasury Department in April and September, the country has become an increasingly permissive jurisdiction for jihadists.
Erdogan is fully aware that the allegations of negligence and complicity not only put him but Donald Trump – his guest at the White House this week – in a difficult situation.
The director of communication of the Turkish presidency tweeted Monday in his tweet "that a very dark propaganda against Turkey is circulating to cast doubts on our resolve against [the Islamic State]". To remedy this tarnished image of Erdogan, the Turkish government has since launched an effort to "publicize the push to catch the IS members who were close to Al Baghdadi."
On 4 November, Turkish officials announced that they had captured Rasmiya Awad, Baghdadi's 65-year-old sister, alongside her husband, daughter-in-law and five children in a caravan near the Syrian city. northwest of Azaz, under Turkish control. since September 2016.
The following day, Turkish security forces announced the arrest of five Islamic State militants, including the head of the intelligence services, following multiple operations in the two Syrian cities administered by Turkey and the within its borders.
On November 6, Erdogan revealed that Turkey was also arresting Asma Fawzi Muhammad al-Qubaysi, the first of four women in Baghdadi, alongside Baghdadi's daughter, Leila Jabeer, who was arrested on 2 June 2018 in the Turkish province of Hatay. Syrian border.
Erdogan accused the United States of having conducted a "communication campaign" on the killing of Baghdadi. "We caught his wife, but we did not make any noise," Erdogan said.
Trump seemed impressed by the Turkish President's self-promotion campaign and tweeted "a very good call" with Erdogan, adding that the Turks "had captured many fighters of the Islamic State who allegedly fled during the conflict – including a wife and sister of killer al-Baghdadi terrorists. "
Trump should not fall for the public relations problems of the Turkish president. Instead, Trump should demand tougher action against all active jihadist networks in and around Turkish borders, beyond the Islamic State alone.
Trump is also expected to hold the Turkish government responsible for war crimes committed by Turkish Islamist proxies in northeastern Syria.
By adding to the instability in Syria, Erdogan threatens to reverse the gains of the United States and its allies against the Islamic State.