Is Islamic State finding refuge in Turkey?

Kurdish activists argue that the Islamic State militants have crossed from the Turkish border and attacked Kobani from the rear of the Mursitpinar border crossing.

al-monitor Turkish soldiers watch fighting between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants, from atop a hill overlooking the Syrian town Kobani, Nov. 15, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal.

Topics covered

ypg, turkey, syrian refugees, syria, refugees, islamic state

Dec 2, 2014

According to the Kobani watchers in Caykara [Mahzer] village, Islamic State (IS) forces crossed from Turkey and attacked the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forces controlling the Syrian side of Mursitpinar border, crossing from the rear. IS badly wants to capture the crossing.

Did the IS car bomb attack at Mursitpinar Saturday morning [Nov. 29] originate from Turkey? Information provided by official sources about how the attack was carried out is murky. The Mahzer crowd congregating directly behind the Mursitpinar crossing insist the bomb-laden vehicle came from Turkey, broke the lock on the gate and crossed to Syria.

Even more interesting are reports that the presence of IS elements in Turkey is not confined to this attack. People who had to abandon their homes in the Mursitpinar area and settle in nearby villages because of security reasons say IS has been entering the houses they had to abandon.

Egrice [Betke] village is about a kilometer from the border. There are 18 native households plus 12 families that came over from Syria. Native villagers are also hosting a few families who had to evacuate their homes in Etmenek near Mursitpinar in Turkey. If you talk to these people from Etmenek you will hear that IS militants have been crossing the border at will and entering the abandoned buildings and even staying in them. One Etmenek villager said, “My uncle’s house is near my house. Although it is banned, we sometimes go over to our homes and then return here. When I went there last time I saw IS people in my uncle’s house.” Another villager also claimed his house was taken over by IS.

You hear similar accounts from the Caykara-Mahzer crowd who hail from Kucuk Ermenek. Some say Turkish soldiers are at one end of the village and IS militants at the other. We are talking about settlements on the Turkish side around Mursitpinar and its fringes. IS taking over Soil Products Office silos along the border and firing down on YPG forces from [inside] is not the only case of IS militarily violating the Turkish border.

At Egrice village you can see hundreds of cars Kobani refugees were not allowed to bring with them to Turkey. In the same place you also see cattle herds which are not allowed to cross to Turkey because of risk of foot and mouth disease. Villagers say the animals are slowly dying and IS elements frequently come to the car park and take any vehicle they want. Villagers say they send their children to take care of the animals and Turkey has been providing them with animal feed.

On top of the water tower you can see the IS flag. According to refugees from Kobani, the Syrian side of the border, from Mursitpinar to Akcakale, is under the control of IS.

Those who constantly watch the border from Caykara insist that IS had attacked YPG from the rear by crossing the border from Turkey. For them, the lack of intervention by the Turkish military tasked with border security is a sign that Turkey prefers to have IS control the border crossing.

But even more worrying are the allegations that IS people have been freely entering abandoned houses on the Turkish side. There is no need to elaborate what kind of security fears this causes in the region and how it amplifies the distrust felt for security forces. Contradictory statements by senior civil servants and their ignoring of eyewitness accounts only intensify people's lack of confidence.

As much as it is important to provide a full and clear explanation of the attack at the Mursitpinar crossing, it's vital to give proper responses to claims that IS militants are freely entering and leaving Mursitpinar and its fringes.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Ahmet Insel