Almost 200,000 people have attempted to illegally cross from Turkey into Syria over the past year, and many of those individuals are seeking to join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, Turkish intelligence announced in a report Wednesday.
The Turkish Army announced that its border surveillance units have documented the illegal border crossings of 196,763 people from Turkey into Syria since January 2014.
As many within Syria are fleeing the civil war that has plagued their country, aspiring jihadis seek to infiltrate the territory through Turkey and engage in holy war alongside groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the report warns.
Many of the illegal border-crossers have been detained and charged with being members of the Islamic State terror group.
1,673 suspected members of ISIS were arrested while trying to cross the border, Turkish Justice Minister Kenan Ipek announced last week.
From those ISIS suspects, the government found 300kg of TNT, 2,700kg of other explosive materials, 13 rifles, 40 pistols, 21 shotguns, 40 grenades, 6 homemade bombs, and a rocket launcher, Milliyet reports.
Inside of Turkey, 285 members of ISIS were arrested in 2015 alone, according to the Prime Minister’s Office of Public Diplomacy, Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Just this week, the Istanbul Police Department commenced a series of anti-ISIS raids that resulted in the arrest of 21 suspected members of the terror group, which included seven children. In a separate province, another set of police counter terror raids resulted in the rounding up of another 30 members of ISIS, including one woman. In Kocaeli, an additional 14 suspected ISIS jihadis were arrested, the Hurriyet report adds.
To protect against jihadis who seek to use Turkey as a transit route onto Syrian battlefields, the Turkish Armed Forces have ramped up security measures along popular crossing points. These measures include stretches of concrete walls and fences along strategic areas of the border. The government has also used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and manned reconnaissance aircraft to spot the illegal border crossers.
The announcement related to ISIS apprehensions comes just days before Turkey’s general elections, which are set for Sunday.
The country is still recovering from the deadliest terror attack in the history of modern Turkey. In early October, two suicide-attackers targeted a peace rally in Ankara, killing over one-hundred people and wounding hundreds more.