CIA focuses on al-Qaeda's use of Turkish smuggling routes

Article Summary
After it was recently discovered that Turkish smuggling gangs are working with radical Islamist groups to send weapons and ammunition to Syria's rebels, the US has directed the CIA's focus on these smuggling routes.

The Turkish intelligence services have determined that al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups in Syria have been using established traditional smuggling gangs to supply them with arms and ammunition through Turkey. Radical groups are paying substantial amounts of money to these gangs for their services. The gangs are known to be in contact with weapons dealers. The United States, disturbed by the connection between al-Qaeda and the smugglers, has directed the CIA's focus on these smuggling routes.

In recent days, after a truck was stopped by the police in Adana following a tip regarding narcotics, a significant load of ammunition was found. It was determined that the ammunition seized was manufactured at Adana and Konya for shipment to the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. It was first reported that the ammunition seized included rocket warheads, but the police later said it was mortar ammunition. The truck driver, L.K., told police that instructions for shipment came from a person he knew as Haisam Topalca.  L.K. said he had twice before transported ammunition to a warehouse near a gendarmerie outpost at Reyhanli. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main opposition leader, then said: “Arms are shipped to Syria from Turkey under the supervision of the gendarmerie."

Milliyet has learned that a continuing investigation is uncovering important information. The intelligence services have determined that radical Islamist groups in Syria led by al-Qaeda, who are fighting to replace the current regime with an Islamist one, have resorted to different methods of meeting their arms and ammunition needs.

Amid increasing concerns from the US, Europe and Turkey about the progress made by al-Qaeda in Syria, Islamist groups that in the chaos of the first days had no problem finding arms and ammunition are now facing difficulties. Thus, they have opted to cooperate with smuggling gangs operating in Turkey. These gangs, which had been smuggling between the two countries long before the civil war erupted, control the routes used for transferring arms, ammunition, equipment and manpower. As the routes on the Syrian side were under the control of the opposition, gangs had an easy time. Since the gangs have been active for many years, they have strong connections in Turkey and have no problem finding the requested ammunition and equipment. They are paid extremely well by the Islamist groups for their services.

Radical groups are reported to be active not only in Turkey, but also in contact with similar gangs in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, which are also actively shipping supplies and equipment to Syria. The smuggling gangs are in regular contact with illicit international arms dealers. In addition to radical Islamist groups, other opposition groups in Syria are also known to be in direct contact with international arms dealers without using middlemen. 

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Found in: al-qaeda, turkey, syrian opposition, syrian crisis, syria, cia
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