By Radha Dhar
On 31st December, last year, Turkey was hoping towards a peaceful 2017 just as the rest of the world. But as some counted down that New Year’s Eve, a frightening death toll greeted Istanbul. Gunshots at the Reina nightclub had ended 39 lives when fireworks lit smiling faces elsewhere. ISIL had welcomed a darker new year for Turkey.
In 2016, ISIL had claimed more than two hundred lives in Turkey. Globally, the number massacred by this terrorist group exceeds 1,455 for the year. In addition to this are more than 3500 injured and over a million displaced, internally and otherwise. The sheer magnitude of this terror outfit’s actions have, today, led to a global crackdown and Turkey is leading the front this week. Operating at full swing, its largest operation to hunt down such mass-murderers hit ground zero last weekend. Here is what you need to know.
Who exactly is the enemy?
[su_pullquote align=”left”]ISIL, also known as ISIS, the Islamic State, or Daesh, claim to be fighting a “holy war” against Shia Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis using fear tactics and global acts of terror.[/su_pullquote]
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, the Islamic State, or Daesh, is one of the deadliest terrorist militant groups in the world. It presently holds power in large parts of Syria and Iraq, as well as parts of Afghanistan and Libya. A derivative of the infamous Al-Qaeda group in Iraq where it first established itself, it has been forcing its way into Syria worsening the country’s civil war. Al-Qaeda had separated itself from ISIL in 2014. A telling moment in their historic rift was the Al-Qaeda leader claiming that ”the ISIL disobeyed its order to not kill as many civilians”.
The Islamic State brutally enforces the extreme beliefs and practices of jihadi organisations using fear tactics and global acts of terror. It aims to establish control and instate their fundamentalist, self-proclaimed “Islamic” rule of law in the Levant territory which includes Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. They claim to be fighting a “holy war” against Shia Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis – a religious sect local to the Iraq-Syria region. They evidently stop at nothing and neutralise those in their way, by any means whatsoever.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ranked in the global top most-wanted list, heads this organisation. He is called the “Caliph” or religious successor by his followers. Many of said followers include ex-Iraq militia from Saddam Hussein’s regime, emboldening their defences and making them harder to penetrate — until now.ISIL released a video showing 25 Syrian government soldiers being executed by teenagers in the ancient amphitheater in the city of Palmyra in July 2015. | Photo courtesy: The Daily Signal
Turkey braves into lost territories
Last weekend, a Turkish Special Elite Force carried out wide-sweeping raids across the country. It arrested a stunning number of 820 suspects in its most intensive and historically large-scale incursion targeting ISIL, a state-run news agency reported. The pre-dawn police operations spanned 18 provinces and cities including Istanbul and Gaziantep, focusing on securing areas along the border with Syria. Suspects were taken into custody early Sunday in the capital city of Ankara.
[su_pullquote]Turkish Special Elite Force arrested 820 suspects in the recent raid, some were identified as participating in ISIL recruitment while some were planning an attack in the city of Izmir. [/su_pullquote]
A vast majority of suspects detained were foreigners, including ten confirmed minors. Many suspects were identified as participating in ISIL recruiting efforts via social media. Security forces even apprehended nine suspects in the nick of time who were allegedly planning an attack in the city of Izmir.
The largest infiltration, however, took place in the Sanliurfa province, where the ISIS-related evidential material was discovered. Over a 100 people were taken into custody there. According to a local media tally, at least 48 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the incursion so far. While many claim their sacrifice was not in vain, one must acknowledge the distance yet to be covered. The surprise sweep was no doubt bold and successful, but much work remains in the days ahead as IS operatives and sleeper cells continue to be identified.
A war six months down the lane
Turkey, in the recent years, has witnessed an exponential increase in terrorist incidents. These extreme infiltration tactics stem from this context of conflict.
The country has regularly tried playing a tricky balancing act between defensive and offensive strategies. But continual instigation has forced the government into a full-on offence mode. The operation is majorly being undertaken to protect Turkey’s borders from ISIL encroachment.
This move is the most recent development to the ongoing series of operations which began on August 24, 2016. During this period, Turkish forces have hit over 250 ISIS targets across the border. They have also successfully killed 33 terrorists, confirmed a Wall Street Journal report.Smoke rises from the Syrian side of the border, in a photo taken from Karkamis, Turkey on August 24, 2016. | Photo courtesy: CBC News
Local media noted that Turkish jets were also effective in destroying 39 other targets ever since. These included 32 buildings, three headquarters, an arsenal, two bomb-laden vehicles and a tunnel entrance used by terrorists. Additionally, 57 mines and 3,680 improvised explosives have been defused since the start of the operation. All this comes at a time when the country is dealing with an internal coup and stressful international relations. Despite having so much on its plate, its fight against the ISIS should be noted as a positive move for the international community.
Through this national raid, aptly referenced as the “pre-dawn operation”, Turkey’s successes reveal a small glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel. If the world continues to unite in an aggressive anti-ISIL stance, shares intelligence and replicates Turkey’s strong measures, dawns will soon cease to smell of ravaged roadways. We may be closer to waking up to brighter days and recovering together from this terror.
Featured Image Source: BBC
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