An apparent attempt by Islamic State militants to kidnap a Syrian rebel leader within Turkey has been foiled, raising questions about Turkey’s ability to stop militants operating within its borders.
The Telegraph reports that Abu Issa, who leads rebel group Thuwar Raqqa, which has been fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Syrian border of Kobane, was ambushed, shot and wounded by militants in Urfa in Turkey.
Issa was snatched from a car, along with his son, on Friday afternoon, a spokesman said. Ahmed Abdul Khader told the Telegraph: “Isil cars blocked the road ahead of them, and four armed men grabbed them from the vehicle.”
He added that the car’s driver had been in on the plot: “When the Isil cars blocked the road ahead, Abu Issa told the driver to turn around, but he just switched the engine off, and let the kidnappers take them from the car.”
The kidnappers drove Issa towards the Syrian border, but an increased Turkish military presence made it too difficult to cross. One of the kidnappers bailed on the plot, causing it to fail.
The kidnappers have now reportedly been arrested by Turkish police, however other ISIS fighters are believed to be operating with impunity within Turkey. One Syrian man told the Telegraph that four of his friends have joined ISIS: “I see them living a comfortable life in Urfa; they eat in the restaurants and spend time in cafes. Nobody bothers them.”
However, Turkish officials have hit back, blaming other countries for not doing enough warn them about jihadists coming to the country.
One senior official said: “If we are warned in advance, we can stop them at the airport. But we need to have a legal basis. We can’t just refuse someone entry because they have a long beard.” He added that Turkey has now turned back “6000 jihadists” who attempted to the country.
He also said that Turkey has now tracked down some 1000 ISIS members, however he added: “It is much harder to do than stopping them from entering.”