On May 1, 2023, Turkey announced that the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Hussein al-Qurashi, was killed during a targeted raid on a hideout in Syria. NBC News reported that this operation was carried out by MIT, the Turkish national intelligence agency. As the operation unfolded, Turkish forces cornered the ISIS leader, leading him to detonate a suicide vest in an attempt to avoid capture, reports Al Jazeera. The raid is said to have taken place near the small, northern Syrian village of Jinderes, which is occupied by rebel groups supported by the Turkish government. Jinderes was one of the worst affected areas in the country when earthquakes struck the region in February of 2023.
ISIS controlled the area beginning in 2014, however forces in Syria backed by the United States, Iran, and Russia drove the group out, Al Jazeera continues. According to Reuters, Iraqi intelligence coordinated with Turkey to determine the whereabouts of al-Qurashi. The border area between the two nations is notoriously populated by leaders of the formerly dominant group, with an Iraqi intelligence officer stating to Reuters that “The only safe haven for the senior ISIS leaders is in Syria, and specifically in areas bordering Turkey.”
In the process of determining al-Qurashi’s whereabouts, Turkey oversaw the usage of Iraqi agents to move a senior ISIS leader, Khaled al-Jabouri, from Syria to Turkey where he was killed by the U.S. in a drone strike. During that operation, two more ISIS operatives were detained. It was later discovered that the operatives were intending to deliver a message to al-Qurashi.
Turkey’s relationship with Syria has been complex due to the ongoing conflict and the presence of various armed groups within the state, including ISIS. BBC News explained that at its peak, ISIS held 34,000 square miles of Syrian territory. As a neighboring country, Syria’s instability has caused Turkey to face security challenges and a massive influx of refugees. Over the years, Turkey has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, aiming to stabilize the region and counter the threat posed by extremist groups. Turkey has supported rebel factions fighting against the Syrian government, including providing humanitarian aid and hosting millions of Syrian refugees. However, Turkey has also faced criticism for its military operations against Kurdish groups in northern Syria, which it perceives as terrorist organizations due to their links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement about the death of al-Qurashi came after a long time of being out of the public eye, writes CNN. Several reports state that his health had been deteriorating, just two weeks before Turkey’s national election, which is set to take place on May 14. Erdogan, 69, is looking to extend his 20-year standing as a key leader in the Turkish government. Erdogan served as the Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and has been the President of Turkey since 2014. The Guardian writes that Erdogan is the founder and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a conservative political party that has been in power in Turkey since 2002.
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