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Islamic State Turkey province video claims new wilayah in old turf

Islamic State released its first Turkey Province propaganda video, but ISIS has long had a significant presence in the country

ISIS released a propaganda video from ‘Wilayah Turkey,’ showing a small group of militants pledging bayah, or allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The eighth in the “And the best outcome is for the righteous” series, the video is the first from this new province, but ISIS already has a complex presence in Turkey.

The five-minute long video released on July 10 is typical of earlier bayah videos. It features three militants sitting in front of what appears to be a handmade, large black standard commonly used by ISIS. They are joined by two more when making the pledge of allegiance while a sixth presumably operates the shaking camera.

The speaker is identified as Abu Qatada at-Turki, and he reaffirms the militants’ allegiance to Baghdadi while also threatening Turkey and America.

A weapons researcher known as Calibre Obscura noted that the militants appear well-armed in comparison to fighters seen in other videos in this series. A Draganov sniper rifle, a PKM machine gun, an RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher, two AKMS assault rifles, a Glock pistol, and some grenades appear throughout.

Islamic State in Turkey

The “And the best outcome is for the righteous” video series has included ISIS militants from multiple affiliates renewing their pledges to Baghdadi. So far videos have been released from ISIS affiliates in Khorasan (which includes Afghanistan and Iran), Qawqaz (Caucasus), East Asia, Sinai (Egypt), West Africa (which included bayah from Mali and Burkina Faso), and Libya. One video in the series is from Azerbaijan, although this affiliate has not been publicly called a Wilayah.

The videos appear part of an effort to emphasize ISIS’s global presence following its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria, as well as to emphasize unity under Baghdadi.

While this video is the first official release from Turkey Province, is not the first mention of a wilayah there. A Turkey province was casually identified in Baghdadi’s most recent video appearance, released on April 29, the first time he had been seen in five years. In the video he reviews binders ostensibly containing information on various ISIS affiliates, including one dedicated to the never-before-mentioned Wilayah Turkey.

Despite only recently naming it a province, ISIS has had a long history in Turkey, predating its 2014 declaration of a Caliphate. Turkey has been a key location for ISIS activities and transit point for fighters crossing into Syria, and ISIS has carried out several terror attacks in the country.

Previous ISIS propaganda has mentioned and focused on Turkey, and at one point the group published a Turkish-language magazine entitled Konstantiniyye. The first edition in June 2015 featured a more neutral position on Turkey, with little advocacy for violence in the country.

But a few months later the September 2015 edition of the now-defunct ISIS English-language magazine Dabiq attacked the Turkish government and army, saying they were “one of blatant apostasy.” In November 2016 Baghdadi directly advocated for attacks in Turkey in a speech, saying, “Turkey today has become a target for your operations and a priority for your Jihad.”

Islamic State Turkey Province bayah
Fighters from Islamic State Turkey Province pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the affiliate’s first video released in July 2019.

ISIS is believed to be responsible for several terror attacks in Turkey, including October 2015 bombings in Diyarbakir and Ankara, and a triple suicide bombing at Atatürk Airport in June 2016.

ISIS didn’t admit responsibility for any of those attacks, making its first claim of responsibility – for another bombing in Diyarbakir – two days after Baghdadi’s November speech.

The last major ISIS-claimed assault in Turkey was the gun attack on the Reina Nightclub in Istanbul on New Year’s Day 2017.

Analysis by the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point of 23 attacks and 28 plots in Turkey showed that all except for two were either directed by ISIS central or ISIS members were in direct contact with the attackers.

Most notably, in 2017 an ISIS operative in Turkey sent a partially constructed improvised explosive device to Australia as part of a plot to bomb a flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.

Turkey was also an essential logistical hub that allowed the movement of people and equipment necessary to its “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq. Of the tens of thousands of foreigners who traveled to ISIS-held territory, the majority moved through Turkey. Extensive networks were built to help facilitate many of their movements through Turkey into Syria.

ISIS fighters purchased supplies and equipment in Turkey, and had other material sent to the country to later smuggle into Syria, including various items for their drone program. Materials used in the production of explosives, including aluminum paste and nitrate-based fertilizers, were purchased on the Turkish domestic market, often in bulk.

Following the capture of ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria, Turkey has continued to arrest suspected ISIS members and foil plots.

In a series of propaganda videos meant to emphasize global credentials primarily to supporters, it remains to be seen just how much actual activity will follow. But ISIS certainly has more potential to expand in Turkey then in other locations featured for the first time in the “And the best outcome is for the righteous” series such as Azerbaijan or Iran, due to their existing networks in the country and proven capability to stage attacks.

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