Turkey’s Extremist Ties Make It Fertile Ground To Plot, Direct Attacks

(New York, N.Y.) — Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has become a haven for terrorist operatives. It maintains open relations with extremist groups and harbors internationally sanctioned and wanted extremists affiliated with the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. Last week, it was revealed that Turkish authorities, acting on information from Israeli intelligence, stopped the assassination of Israeli businessman Yair Geller by Iranian agents. According to recent press reports, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has been involved in stopping 12 terrorist plots against Israelis in Turkey over the last two years alone.

Turkey has welcomed leaders of Hamas—a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization—for almost two decades, leading the group to create an official bureau in Istanbul in 2012 after its leadership fled Syria at the beginning of that country’s civil war. Turkish authorities, meanwhile, have reportedly overseen Hamas military training exercises in the country and provided support for the group’s activities. In 2020, Erdoğan granted passports to 12 senior members of Hamas.

Hamas operatives working in Turkey actively recruit Palestinians living in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and other Middle East countries. The recruits are sent to the bureau in Istanbul, where they reportedly receive security clearances and begin training outside of the city. In addition, many of the weapons used by Hamas in the West Bank are reportedly supplied by the group’s Istanbul bureau. Hamas has also manipulated Turkish businesses for its own gain. In January 2021, Israeli authorities seized more than $120,000 and goods worth hundreds of thousands of shekels that Hamas was allegedly transferring from Turkey to the West Bank. Hamas allegedly used Turkish company Tikkno Plus Ic Ve Dis to transfer the money and goods.

Turkey’s ongoing relationship with Hamas complicates its efforts to repair relations with Israel, which has demanded an end to Turkish support of Hamas as part of any reconciliation between the two countries. On November 20, 2021, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh praised Turkey for its “critical” role providing political support for Hamas and the Palestinian cause. After a November 21 Hamas attack killed one and wounded four in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli security revealed the gunman had visited Turkey prior to the attack and allegedly received instructions from Hamas leaders there. On November 22, Israel’s Shin Bet security organization announced it had broken up a West Bank Hamas cell directed by Hamas leaders in Turkey.

To read the Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s resource Turkey: Extremism and Terrorism, please click here.

To read CEP’s resource Turkey’s Approach to Countering Terrorism, please click here.

To read CEP’s resource HARBORS Campaign: Turkey, please click here.

To read CEP’s resource Hamas, please click here.

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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