Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Investigation Reveals Ties Between Turkish al-Qaeda and Iraq

A firefight with U.S. military forces on June 23 near the town of Hawija in northern Iraq exposed the presence of Turkish al-Qaeda operatives. It also revealed their probable role in facilitating a flow of jihadis to Al-Qaeda in Iraq on behalf of al-Qaeda, as well as the identities of two of the operatives and their backgrounds and roles (Terrorism Focus, July 10; MNF-I Statement, June 28). Additional details provided since that time as a result of the continuing investigation by U.S. military authorities serve to reinforce the validity of the implications reported in Terrorism Focus on July 10. The identity of a third individual, Ahmed Sancar (also known as Khattab al-Turki), killed in the June 23 firefight south of Kirkuk, has been announced by U.S. military officials (, July 20). Sancar, also Turkish, was characterized by the U.S. military as a "senior" leader in al-Qaeda, and as a "key" financier and facilitator for the group. In a significant finding, the cell's leader, Mehmet Yilmaz (also known as Khalid al-Turki), was said to be a "close" associate of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. These conclusions continue to reinforce the magnitude of the loss suffered by al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Turkish al-Qaeda organization in the June 23 firefight. These revelations also highlight the difficulty that al-Qaeda will have in replacing the Yilmaz cell in order to restore the flow of jihadis into Iraq from the north to its previous rate.

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