For Jihadist groups including al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Turkey has been not only a transit country but also a sanctuary and recruitment ground for militants who manage to raise funds, run logistical lines across the border and deploy suicide bombers to send a message to the world.
Several high-profile ISIL (also known as ISIS or Daesh) cases in Turkey seem to be suggesting a systematic pattern of enabling and empowering radical groups in Turkey under the country’s pack of Islamist rulers led by a repressive and xenophobic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There has never been a real crackdown on radical groups in Turkey other than pretending or posturing to ease the pressure when Ankara came under intense scrutiny from allies and partners, especially the US, Russia and China.
I have written extensively on these cases where notorious Turkish intelligence organization and paramilitary forces such as SADAT — that work directly under the command of Erdoğan, the top Islamist — enabled radical militants in Turkey and abroad. Here I will talk in detail on how an ISIL suicide bomber and his foreign bride evaded scrutiny in Turkey, moved around comfortably and were even let go despite they were tipped off by their family members and flagged by the authorities as Jihadists. The case also reveals the appeal of Turkey for women Jihadists who made a trip to Syria to join their brethren and even get married to fellow militants.
Walentina Slobodjan obtained a fake Turkish ID in Turkey.
The case involves a twenty-two-year-old woman who was called a terrorist with a Mona Lisa smile. Her name is Walentina Slobodjanjuk, and named as a suspect in a leading ISIL case in Turkey. The Europol records show that Slobodjanjuk was born in Kazakhistan on May 1995 but owned a German passport No L6Y6YXLF50Y, indicating that she holds a German citizenship. The indictment charges her on membership to a terrorist group and fraud on official documents.
She faces an outstanding detention warrant that was issued by Ankara No.3 Criminal Court of Peace on Feb.23, 2016 by a ruling No.2016/1143. The indictment listed her as 25th suspect in the ISIL case of a twin bombing that took place in Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015 — the deadliest terror attack ever to take place in Turkey, which killed 107 people including the two suicide bombers. The attack targeted NGOs and supporters of left-wing and pro-Kurdish parties holding a peace rally outside the capital’s main train station, weeks ahead of the Nov. 1, 2015 snap elections that gave Turkey’s embattled President Erdoğan and his party a chance to regain the majority in Parliament.
Ömer Deniz Dündar and Mahmut Gazi Dündar (R).
Slobodjanjuk is believed to be the Jihadist wife to Ömer Deniz Dündar (A.K.A. Ammar), 24-year old Turkish national and resident of Adıyaman province. According to Turkish government’s account based on DNA tests, Dündar was one of the twin suicide bombers who blew themselves up in the Turkish capital nearby government buildings on Oct.10th. In two separate documents found among digital archieves that were seized from a police raid on ISIL safe house in Turkey, Dündar was named along with four others as potential suicide bombers who are ready to take action upon orders from Syria’s ISIL Emir. Dündar was carrying a fraudulent ID drawn on the name of Emre Kaya, a Turkish real estate broker, to evade detection. Kaya denied knowing Dündar during the police interview.
When investigators traced the GSM signals of the mobile phone No. 532-675-0477 that was used by Slobodjanjuk while she was in Turkey, they found out that its signals came from a cell tower located in Gaziantep province between the dates of October 3 and October 15, 2015, around the time Ankara attack took place. She reportedly met Dündar in Syria in 2014 and both got married there. She was believed to have come back to Turkey in 2014 and spent some time with the family in Adıyaman province. Slobodjanjuk remains to be a fugitive as of today while body remnants of her Jihadist husband were identified as one of the suicide bombers in the deadly Ankara attack.
Walentina Slobodjan indicted as 25th suspect in ISIL case in Turkey.
According to the indictment, Slobodjanjuk conspired with two key ISIL suspects Halil İbrahim Durgun — one of the organizers of Ankara train station attack and allegedly blew himself up during a police operation in Gaziantep on November 15, 2015 in order not to get caught—and Yunus Durmaz — an Afghan trained hard-core ISIL militant who led one of the most secretive ISIL cell in Turkey and the mastermind of the Ankara attack.
When police raided the house belonging to Durmaz in Akkent neighborhood of Şahinbey District in Turkey’s southeastern province Gaziantep, a hotbed for radical militants near Syrian border, a Turkish national ID card for the name of Yıldız Bozkurt was found. The photo on the ID belonged to Slobodjanjuk although details of the identity card showed her as Turkish national residing in Gaziantep. It was a high-quality fraudulent ID card that allowed Slobodjanjuk to move around easily without a detection.
Police interviewed Turkish women Yıldız Bozkurt whose identity was assumed by Slobodjanjuk to find out how her ID ended up in an apartment No.19 in Akkent neighborhood with Jihadist woman’s photo. Bozkurt said she never loaned her ID to anybody, did not know Slobodjanjuk. She also said some of the details in the ID did not match to hers such as birth date and her father’s name.
The intercepted ISIL communique shows that Syrian militant group that coordinates the travel of foreign fighters from/to Syria attached special importance to Slobodjanjuk and her Turkish husband. They were even offered a VIP-like special travel arrangements for them to move in and out of Turkish Syrian border. Dündar’s involvement in the deadliest terror attack in Turkey proved this asset’s value for the terrorist network.
It is regrettable that this terror attack was not prevented despite all the road markers indicating that Dündar would become a dangerous terrorist were known to Turkish authorities that were aware of his connections to radical groups but did not take any action until his body turned up in pieces in the suicide attack. His grieving father, Mehmet Dündar, said that he filed complaints with police and prosecutor’s office about her son, informed them about his travels to Syria and named names in the militant network his son had interacted both in Turkey and Syria. The first complaint by father Mehmet Dündar and his wife Asiye Dündar was made to Fatih police station on Sept.9, 2013.
Ömer Deniz Dündar first went to Syria in 2013 to join Jihadists, prompting his father to go all the way to rebel camps in Aleppo to try to pick him up and bring him back. The father managed to locate the camps run by Jihadists and he was told that his son was brought in with a group of 15. But Jihadist group’s commander, a Turkish national from Batman province who said he served 15 years jail time in İstanbul, refused to arrange a meeting with father and the son. He told the father his son would be martyred in Syria. Frustrated father came back empty handed but reported what happened to the police with names of all Jihadists. Surprisingly, Dündar showed up in Adıyaman in 2014 and stayed with his father in Turkey for eight months before going back to Syria again.
Dündar’s twin brother Mahmut Gazi Dündar also joined Jihadist groups in Syria in 2013. Gazi Dündar and his wife Merve Dündar are believed to be among suicide bombers who remain at large as of today. Interestingly enough, father Mehmet Dündar said he received a Facebook message from Gazi Dündar in the wake of Oct.10th suicide attack in Ankara, saying that his son told him they were well. Police believe Gazi Dündar, Slobodjanjuk and another man named Muhammet Zana Alkan all crossed to Turkey to stage suicide bombing attacks. It was also rumored that Gazi Dündar was detained by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) after Tell Abyad offensive in May 2015.
When Ömer Deniz Dündar came back to Turkey in 2014, his father, Mehmet Dündar, reported his son’s activities to police, hoping that Turkish authorities will prevent him from going back to Syria again. But police simply let him go after a brief questioning. The family’s appeal with the Offices of Prime Ministry and Presidency did not go anywhere either. Fatma Dündar, the sister of twin brothers Ömer Deniz and Mahmut Gazi wrote to Prime Ministry’s hotline called BİMER on September 18, 2013, stating that her brothers were missing for two weeks now. She said when the family filed a missing case report with the police, they learned that some 100 children were reported to be missing in connection to Jihadist groups operating in Adıyaman. When she did not get any response, on September 24, 2013, Fatma also filed similar complaint with the Office of Presidency.
It is mind-boggling that authorities did not do anything substantial to crack down on this case despite the fact that Dündar’s family ordeal also attracted the national media. Both the father and the mother appeared on CNN Türk TV network in 2013, making a public plea for locating their sons and asking authorities to do something about their kids and others who have gone missing on Jihadist adventures. After the network aired the segment and the daily Radikal published a story about that, specially authorized public prosecutor in Malatya launched an al-Qaeda investigation.
The probe uncovered a deadly Jihadist network known as Dokumacılar group led by Mustafa Dokumacı who had been recruiting militants for radical groups in Syria. Ömer Deniz Dündar was also suspect in the investigation. Yet, in a sudden move in 2014, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) decided to abolish specially authorized prosecutors and courts that has great experience and knowledge in prosecuting terror cases. When Abdullah Gül, then the President of Turkey and another Islamist, signed the bill into law on March 2014, the case pursued by a special prosecutor in Malatya was transferred to Adıyaman.
The public prosecutor in conservative province Adıyaman completed investigation in the fall of 2014 but decided to drop charges against Ömer Deniz Dündar and 18 other suspects despite the body of evidence including wiretap communications revealed their involvement in Jihadist business. The prosecutor in Adıyaman eventually filed a criminal suit on December 26, 2014 against three suspects Mustafa Dokumacı, Mehmet İşbar and Salih Küçüktaş after all three already crossed into Syria while authorities were listening their communications that revealed their travel plans. In other words, Turkish authorities knew the three would escape but they released them after questioning. It was simply impossible for the prosecutor to discontinue this very serious case on most suspects without an approval from the government that effectively controls Turkish judiciary. The three that were charged in the case were questioned but released before.
If Ömer Deniz Dündar got prosecuted and convicted, 107 people could have been alive today. Rightfully so, the father now says the man who is really responsible for Ankara carnage is Adıyaman police chief whom he begged for the arrest of his son way before the suicide attack took place but the authorities have done nothing to crackdown on Jihadist network. Why? Perhaps raising militants to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Erdoğan’s arch-enemy, was more important for Islamist rulers in Turkey.