ISIS ambulance driver: We sent injured men to Turkey

Muhammad Amir Abdulkadir went from Germany to Syria and joined the so-called ISIS. In an ANF interview he reports on transport of seriously injured ISIS jihadists to Turkey.

German jihadist Muhammad Amir Abdulkadir aka "Abu Muhammed Almani" is one of over one hundred German members of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist militia who are under the arrest of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria. He talked to ANF on how, with the help of the Salafist association “Helfen in Not” [Help in Need], based in Neuss, ambulances for the so-called ISIS were brought from Germany via Idlib to the self-declared caliphate.

Muhammad Amir Abdulkadir worked as an ambulance driver in 2015, working Girê Spî (Tal Abyad) and Tabqa and transporting seriously injured ISIS jihadists. He said: "As soon as we took the injured to a hospital in Tal Abyad, they were transferred from my ambulance to another. This ambulance took the injured to the border crossing of Tal Abyad. At the border, the injured were transferred to another ambulance and taken to Turkey."

Abdulkadir states how two ambulances from Germany were handed over to the ISIS over the camouflage organization “Helfen in Not” that is well known to authorities.. At the same time, the chairman of the association, Bekir Astürk, played an important role with his good relations with the Turkish state.

Work for “Helfen in Not” in Germany

A Tunisian native, Muhammad Amir Abdulkadir has a residence permit in Germany. In late 2013 or early 2014, he met the "aid organization" called “Helfen in Not” and its founder Bekir Astürk. Bekir Astürk is listed as Salafist at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. About the association, which acts as a humanitarian aid organization, Muhammad Amir Abdulkadir told the following: "Helfen in Not was based in Germany. The boss was a Turk. I have been involved in the work of the association to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Syria. The club people asked me if I could bring some ambulances to Syria with them. I then agreed. In Germany, our task was to collect donations in kind and money. They conducted meetings (donations galas, etc.) with Muslims and got money from them for Syria, which was used to buy second hand ambulances. We had them repaired to take them to Syria.”

Majority of ambulances passed the border at Cilvegözü

Abdulkadir relates that he has carried out two transports of ambulances to Syria in this context. "It was in March or April 2014 when I went to Idlib at the request of the owner of “Helfen in Not”. That was the first time I was in Syria. The ambulances and Bekir Astürk arrived in Istanbul separately. I took one and traveled to Idlib via the al-Hawa border crossing (Cilvegözü-Reyhanlı). In Idlib there was a “Helfen in Not” office. 'When medication was needed, we organized it and sent it to the office. When we first traveled to Syria, it was not because of the ISIS. At that time, the ISIS was not active in Idlib. Some hospitals were under the control of the FSA, others under the control of Ahrar al-Sham. Still others were neither under the control of one force nor the other, but were cared for by civilian institutions. After a short stay in Idlib to deliver the ambulances, I returned to Germany and continued my work," explains Abdulkadir.  

Relations between Bekir Asturk and Turkish state officials

The jihadist says the following about the leader of “Helfen in Not”: "Brother Bekir knew many people in Turkey, among them officers, soldiers and civil servants. Thanks to him, it was easy to transport the ambulances from Istanbul to Idlib. Also, some of the people at Bab al-Hawa border crossing, including very important personalities, were among the acquaintances of Bekir. He took care of the formalities for the border crossing. All documents from Germany to Idlib were official papers. The ambulances were not even searched because many people knew Bekir. That's why we never had the slightest difficulty.”

Asturk sends ISIS two ambulances

In September 2014, the Tunisian travels again by ambulance as an employee of “Helfen in Not” via Turkey to Syria. Abdulkadir claims that Asturk had told him to go to Bab with two ambulances this time. Bab was under ISIS control at this time. "We were unaware that Bab and Tabqa were controlled by the ISIS. I had an ID card for humanitarian aid and permits. I assumed that we brought the ambulance vehicles for humanitarian aid to Bab. When we got there, we looked at the checkpoints for people with beards. They looked different, there were ISIS flags on the masts. In Bab, the ISIS people sent us to Tabqa," recalls Abdulkadir.  

The jihadist claims he did not want to join the ISIS, but the militia demanded it. He recapitulates, "Right after we arrived in Tabqa, the Assad regime bombed the city hospital. My ambulance was slightly damaged, I was injured in the attack. First, I stayed for treatment in the local hospital. After I felt a little better, I wanted to return to Germany. But they (ISIS) did not allow it. My wife and children were in Germany and I was in Tabqa. There was another ambulance driver who came with me. He was German and his name was Dominik. He also stayed with the ISIS and was happy with it. He went to Iraq as an ISIS member and got married. I do not know how it went on with him later on."

Ambulance driver for the ISIS

About his duties in the self-proclaimed caliphate, Abdulkadir says, "Since I was injured at the knee and hip when I came to Tabqa, I was assigned to work as an ambulance driver. There were a couple of shrapnel pieces in the vehicle I'd brought there earlier. But they had already fixed it, so I drove this ambulance. I took the seriously injured to Tal Abyad. From there, Abu Bakr al-Kurdi took over the injured and transported them to Turkey. He used two names, the other was Abu Ibrahim al-Kurdi. He himself was in Tal Abyad and had a brother on the Turkish side. Al-Kurdi used the connection with his brother to bring the wounded across the border. Their work went smoothly. They organized their own work. His brother took care of documents of the injured, medicine, home and hospital.”

Jihadists transported across the border crossing at Akçakale

"When we took the injured to hospital in Tal Abyad, they would be transferred from my ambulance to another that later took them to the border crossing of Tal Abyad. At the border, the injured were re-loaded into another ambulance and taken to Turkey. This work was easy and well organized. But not every patient could travel this way. Only the very seriously injured were brought to Turkey in this way. As soon as we reloaded the injured in the other ambulance, al-Kurdi had to be there. We already had an ambulance, which was ready, in the hospital anyway. Abu Bakr al-Kurdi was always ready. He was in constant contact with his brother on the Turkish side of the border crossing and informed the soldiers and officials that an ambulance with injured people would arrive," explains Abdulkadir.

Transferred the injured from Iraq to Girê Spî

The Islamist recalls his further work: "I started working on the Tabqa-Tal Abyad route in late 2014 or early 2015. Then they sent me to Iraq. There I did the same job as ambulance driver. I brought injured people from Ambar to Tal Abyad twice. After that, the fighting between Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and ISIS began. When Tal Abyad fell, I worked with the same ambulance only inside the ISIS area. After about a year in Iraq, I was sent to Raqqa.

Tal Abyad was the official border crossing point. I have often heard that after SDF took the city, the exchange of weapons and injured ISIS jihadists took place via the underground tunnels in the village of Bab Lemon near Rai.

In Turkey, ISIS jihadists were not treated in one single hospital. There were quite a few hospitals providing service for ISIS. Bekir's relations in Turkey were good and he had money. There were no problems with the treatment of the injured. I do not know in which hospitals they were taken but when we picked up the injured, they talked about being taken to Urfa, Hatay and Istanbul.”

Muhammad Amir Abdulkadir claims to have started to try harder to escape the ISIS in Raqqa. On December 24, 2017, he surrendered to the SDF in Deir ez-Zor.

“Helfen in Not" - At least nine ambulances sent to ISIS

“Helfen in Not" was founded in 2013 by Bekir Astürk in Neuss, Germany. The institution claimed to be "on the side of the needy" and presented itself to the German public as a "helpful hero." The association was purportedly taking aid to war zones in a vast territory extending from African countries to Palestine and Syria. It acted under the Slogan: "100 percent of your donation reaches the addressee." The addressees, however, were in many cases the ISIS. The prosecution in Cologne had found in 2014 that “Helfen in Not" had sent nine ambulances to the ISIS until then.

In the Der Spiegel issue of October 2016, it was described how German security units found out about the transfer of ambulances by monitoring the phone calls of two members of “Salafist” groups in March 2014. The jihadists Mustafa A. and Mirza B. had talked about how they had brought one of these ambulances to Syria via Turkey in February 2014.

Within the knowledge of German secret service

The association “Helfen in Not" did not bother to hide its activity but instead continued to support the ISIS openly before the public opinion and the secret service. The German intelligence service detected the collection of 50,000 Euros at a charity event for “Helfen in Not" that was held in Bonn with the participation of two thousand people in the mentioned process. Namely, the secret service was kept informed about the whole process including fundraising, the purchase of ambulances, and their transportation to Syria.

These points were also discussed in the NRW state parliament. Answering a written question on the pro-ISIS groups organised under the cover of “aid organizations” in 2014, the North Rhine-Westphalia state government stated that “Helfen in Not" had been under the surveillance of the state’s domestic intelligence service, Office for the Protection of the Constitution in 2013.

Ambulances were not empty

Sven Lau, one of Germany's most renowned Salafists, who had been sentenced to prison but later released on probation, was also attending the “charity” events of “Helfen in Not” and spreading propaganda for collecting further funds. The indictment against Sven Lau, who appeared before judge in Dusseldorf in 2013, also highlighted the fact that he had delivered equipment to the jihadists with the money he had collected at “Helfen in Not" events.

The ambulances from Germany were not empty, they also contained armaments for the ISIS. According to Dusseldorf Prosecutor’s Office, Sven Lau sent three night vision devices in the value of 1447 Euros to ISIS in the ambulances of “Helfen in Not”.

However, instead of instituting proceedings against the owner of “Helfen in Not” for supplying military equipment to the ISIS, the German authorities confined themselves to confiscating Asturk's passport. Asturk could have been described as the logistics manager of the jihadists in Germany. The 49-year-old man complained against the passport confiscation. The complaint was dismissed by the district court on the grounds that it was feared that he would commit similar crimes again.

“Helfen in Not" is still active under different names

According to ANF research, “Helfen in Not" operates today with the same name but not officially, and continues to collect funds under the name of “Kulturverein Weckhoven e.V.” [Weckhoven Cultural Association] which is also based in Neuss. Another club operating under Weckhoven Cultural Association is Al-Yateem which continues its works to this end.