ANKARA: Analysts say Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s declaration last week of the murder of Daesh’s head emphasizes Turkiye’s leading role in regional security and strengthens his claims to be tough on terrorists in the days before crucial elections.
The Turkish president stated on April 30 that MIT security operatives had assassinated Abu Hussein Al-Qurayshi the day before in Syria, but provided no other details. According to Reuters, he was killed in a raid in the northern town of Jandaris, which is controlled by Turkiye-backed rebel factions.
Erdogan vowed to “continue our fight against terrorist organizations without discrimination.”
Abu Ibrahim Al-Qurayshi, the former commander of Daesh, was killed in a US strike on his stronghold in northern Syria in February last year. In another US attack in October 2019, his predecessor, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in Idlib.
In November 2022, Abu Hussein Al-Qurayshi was named as the leader of Daesh.
“The operational tempo of US strikes against Daesh leadership means that we barely even know who these individuals are, we only know their nom de guerre,” Colin P. Clarke, director of research at the Soufan Group, told Arab News.
“The last few ISIS (Daesh) caliphs have almost no media footprint because they were so busy trying to stay alive.”
Similarly, the Turks are “now able to track these Daesh leaders closely, and take action, so Daesh in Syria is reeling from repeated targeted assassinations against its upper echelon of leadership,” he said.
Clarke predicted that these actions would be timed to maximize Erdogan’s electoral advantage.
“He has always presented himself as a strong figure, and he’s working hard to make that contrast in this election with (opposition leader Kemal) Kilicdaroglu,” he said.
“The strongman image is something Erdogan has cultivated over his time in office, so touting high-level counterterrorism operations will help him continue to make that case.”
MIT earlier apprehended Daesh fundraiser Kasim Guler, also known as Abu Usama al-Turki, while attempting to enter Turkiye with guns and explosives in June 2021.
He was allegedly plotting the assassination of politicians, notably Kilicdaroglu.
MIT also apprehended numerous high-profile Daesh figures who were responsible for several suicide attacks in Turkiye.
In 2013, Turkiye recognized Daesh as a terrorist organization. Since then, it has carried out a series of atrocities, including a 109-person suicide bombing on a peace march in Ankara in October 2015.
In the months running up to the country’s May 14 elections, Turkish security services conducted a ferocious crackdown on the organisation. Nine foreign people were apprehended in an anti-Daesh operation in Ankara last week, bringing the total number of arrests in Turkey since the beginning of the year to 35.
According to Nihat Ali Ozcan, a security analyst at the Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, the operation against the Daesh leader in Syria last month was also a message for the West.
“It sends the message that Turkiye is taking an active role in combating all radical terror groups,” he told Arab News.
“Turkey is still part of this regional counter-terrorism effort and intends to emphasize that it targets not only the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but also Daesh,” Ozcan added.
Meanwhile, Turkish military continue their campaign against the PKK in northern Iraq, including airstrikes on PKK hideouts.