President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that Turkish security forces had arrested a “senior official” of the extremist group ISIS.
Erdogan said the commander was known as Abu Zeyd.
His real name was Bashar Khattab Ghazal al-Sumaidai, Erdogan told reporters aboard his flight home after touring three Balkan countries.
Erdogan said a UN Security Council report released in July identified Sumaidai as “one of the top cadres of the terrorist organization (ISIS)”.
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Turkish media said there were indications that Sumaidai could in fact be the man known as Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi – an Iraqi who is the new self-proclaimed caliph, or leader, of the entire ISIS group.
Erdogan only referred to Sumaidai as a senior Islamic State operative in Syria.
“During his interrogation, he also stated that he was a so-called ‘qadi’ of the so-called Ministry of Education and Ministry of Justice,” Erdogan told Turkish media.
A cadi is a judge in a sharia court.
Erdogan did not specify when the IS commander was captured.
“This terrorist’s connections in Syria and Istanbul have been followed for a long time, and information has been obtained that he is entering Turkey illegally,” Erdogan said.
“This terrorist was caught in a successful operation by MIT Security Service and Istanbul Police.”
After a meteoric rise in 2014 in Iraq and Syria that saw it conquer large swaths of territory, the Islamic State has seen its self-proclaimed “caliphate” crumble under a wave of offensives.
It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but the extremist group’s sleeper cells continue to carry out attacks in both countries.
The war in Syria began in 2011 and has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.
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