An Islamic State (IS) suspect has said he met regularly with former Justice and Development Party (AKP) minister and current Gaziantep mayor, Fatma Sahin, during the height of the jihadist group’s assault on Kobani in 2014.
According to a report in the Turkish daily Evrensel, Bahaa Alden Najeep, who is accused of involvement in the Gaziantep wedding attack killing 57 civilians, told police that he had set up the Association for Educating and Developing Syrian Youth in border city Gaziantep upon the request of Free Syrian Army (FSA) officials and that his responsibility was to transfer funds and other aid, such as wireless radios, to Syria.
To prove his innocence, Najeep told police of his meetings with Gaziantep mayor Fatma Sahin, a prominent female figure within Turkey’s ruling AKP, the report said.
“She invited me to meetings to discuss the problems faced by Syrians and particularly during the Kobani protests. I am registered in the records of the [Syrian] opposition. They call me every two months to meetings. I’m against Daesh [IS] and am wanted by them,” Najeep told police on 19 October 2016.
Najeep’s claim came to light in an indictment written for another IS suspect, Mehmet Kadir Cabael, in the trials for the Ankara train station bombing killing 103 people and the Gaziantep wedding attack, held at the Ankara 4th Penal Court.
Najeep admitted in his interrogation that he knew another suspect of the wedding attack, Abdurrahman Alnajjar, and added that they had tried to cross from Syria into Turkey in 2013. Najeep said he had found Alnajjar a house and had employed him for $700.
The suspected IS member was detained in 2016 alongside his brother Muhammed Najeep, who is also accused of having ties to IS leaders and planning sensational attacks inside Turkey, the Evrensel report said.
The IS onslaught on the small city of Kobani in northern Syria reached its peak in October 2014. Thousands of Kurds poured out onto the streets with hundreds crossing the border to fight the jihadist group after Turkish President Erdogan declared the city was about to fall. More than 50 people died in the ensuing clashes between Kurdish protestors and security forces in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
Turkey has been accused of turning a blind eye to and supporting jihadist groups fighting against the Syrian government and Kurdish forces.
Ankara has rejected the claims saying it has only supported opposition groups, known as “moderate rebels”, and forces also supported by several western states.