ISIS gangs crossed into Turkey with Nusra flags

Ilyas Aydin, one of the most cited names in the ISIS case, said he went to Syria to meet with an ISIS spokesperson before joining and later returned to Turkey, adding that the Turkish intelligence turned a blind eye.

Ilyas Aydin (Ebu Ubeyde Turki), one of the ISIS members held prisoner by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spoke about the religious communities in Turkey whose many members later joined ISIS and the Turkish state’s policies over them. Ilyas Aydin joined ISIS in the summer of 2014, and fled ISIS in December 2017 due to internal conflict and clashes. Aydin was captured by the SDF on December 30 at the Serekaniye border as he was trying to cross into Turkey.

Ilyas Aydin has served as the Damascus province’s (what ISIS calls all of Syria) ideological emir for ISIS. Aydin said some ISIS emirs crossed into Turkey alongside the families in 2014 during the conflict between ISIS and organizations like the FSA, Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar ul-Sham in Idlib: “During the time of the Sahavat incident, Jabhat al Nusra told ISIS to hand over their guns and that they would provide safe passage for their families so they could go to Turkey with them. But ISIS chose to fight. In this process ISIS families were crossed into Turkey with Jabhat al Nusra flags.”


Ilyas Aydin was born and raised in Istanbul, and his family is from Ispir, Erzurum originally. He went to Egypt in 2007 through Musa Olgac, known as Ebu Sumeyye, when he was first introduced to Al Qaeda’s ideology: “There at a house we would constantly study religion and read books. Our teacher gave lectures all day. We learned Quran, Aqidah and Fiqh. I stayed there for 9 months. The goal was 4 years. When we were on vacation, the Egyptian intelligence raided the house and took Musa Olgac, who was handed over to turkey 3.5 months later. The last thing I know is he was in Idlib. When that happened, I couldn’t go back to Egypt again.”

Aydin said they were known as the Ebu Ubeyde group and they were based in Eyup, Istanbul: “We also had a masjid in Sirinevler. We opened other masjids. We didn’t go to mosques, because we believe all the Religious Affairs imams are qafir. All imams working under the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate have to swear that they will abide by Ataturk’s principles and revolutions. In our faith that is qufr. That is why we didn’t pray behind them. We didn’t even go to their mosques. We had our own masjids.


Aydin said he worked to unite the smaller groups with similar ideologies in Istanbul: “When we saw the same ideology in other groups, we decided to build a movement that belonged to Turkey. At the time we knew each other with Ebu Hanzala. Ebu Zeyt, Ebu Yusuf who became the Konstantiniye journal officer for ISIS later and Ebu Iklime who lead the Eid prayer with us were our friends. They all had their own groups, and they were the imams. Then we organized the famous mass Eid prayer to promote this coming together and we shared video from there. 11 groups, big and small, attended that prayer.”

ISIS member Aydin spoke about the Eid prayer that radical jihadist groups held on July 29, 2014: “After that prayer many joined ISIS. Many joined, fought and died in the war in Syria, but many also fled back to Turkey. I heard some of those people were released.


Ilyas Aydin spoke about Halis Bayuncuk, known in the Turkish press as Ebu Hanzala: “He is our friend, we have the same ideology. But he is not a member of Al Qaeda or ISIS. He was in Al Qaeda at first, but later he left. We had joint efforts when we were in Turkey.” Aydin spoke about the interview the Turkish newspaper Star made with Halis Bayuncuk, who is arrested for the Al Qaeda case in Turkey now, published on December 21, 2014. Aydin said the interview was made on order by the AKP:

“It was late 2013 - early 2014, Star’s editor in chief made an offer to Ebu Hanzala. He told him the Gulen movement’s men in the US intelligence services were preparing a corruption case against Bilal and Erdogan to take down the government. He said the case would be tied back to the IHH, and then to them, claiming that the government and Al Qaeda were partners in corruption. He wanted Ebu Hanzala to say that as an Al Qaeda member they were being slandered.

We gathered as the imams of the groups, and when none of us agreed to it the matter was closed. But I saw this interview by Ebu Hanzala after I went to ISIS. Ebu Hanzala had accused the Gulen movement like he was asked. But I guess later they found a common formula, and he didn’t accept to be an Al Qaeda member.”


Ilyas Aydin said the following on how the AKP wanted to use jihadist groups in their fight with the Fethullah Gulen group: “At the time, all our friends who were on trial for terrorism received letters in their homes, something like ‘Your phone was unlawfully tapped, if you want to press charges we want to put those responsible on trial’. They wanted to put Gulen movement members on trial, so they sent us those letters. I received one too. Thousands of people did. I think it was early 2014, at the time the purge had just begun. Gulen still had men in the state and the intelligence services. AKP wanted us to press charges against Fethullah Gulen Movement’s men, but we didn’t sign those petitions.”


Aydin said as they were trying to unite the radical jihadist groups in Turkey and held ideological discussions with ISIS gangs, weighing whether to join them or not, ISIS members crossed into Turkey: “The Syrian war had started. In 2014, an ISIS attack started by groups like Jabhat al Nusra, FSA and Ahrar ul Sham in Idlib and parts of Aleppo.Some men me and Ebu Yusuf knew from Egypt had joined ISIS, and at the time they went from Idlib to Istanbul along with their families. They called me and Ebu Yusuf. There were 2 buses full of women and children. We received them as guests.”

Aydin said some ISIS emirs (leaders) went to Turkey together with the families during the clashes between ISIS and other groups: “Jabhat Al Nusra told ISIS to hand over their guns and that they would provide safe passage for them and their families to go to Turkey. ISIS chose to fight. At the time ISIS families were crossed into Turkey with Jabhat Al Nusra flags. Some people I knew from Egypt crossed into Turkey then with their families. We received them as guests. Ebu Hazim Misiri, who we knew from Egypt, came to our house.”


Aydin said ISIS emir Ebu Hazim introduced him to Ebu Hakem, another Egyptian ISIS member who lived and worked in Topkapi, Istanbul, and that he met with ISIS spokesman Ebu Muhammed Adnani through him, then returned to Turkey. They day after the Eid prayers in Omerli, Istanbul Aydin went to Bab and met with ISIS spokesman Ebu Muhammed Adnani: “Adnani asked us to obey them. We said to decide on massively bending a knee to them, we had to go to Turkey to talk with our friends and returned.”

Ilyas Aydin said he had been arrested 5 times on Al-Qaeda charges before and that he was under constant intelligence surveillance. He was also followed as he went to meet with Adnani: “The intelligence services followed us from Istanbul to Gaziantep. They followed us in Antep too. We entered Syria, and when we returned the intelligence services followed us back to Antep center.

From Antep center we took a plane to Istanbul. Even my closest men in my group didn’t know I was going to meet Adnani before I came back to Turkey. When I went back to Istanbul, they asked me if it was true that I met with Adnani. The news of our meeting had spread among groups in Turkey even before I got back.”


Aydin went back to Istanbul to talk with groups there after he met with ISIS spokesman Adnani. Some men decided to break away from the groups, and others decided to stay and join ISIS. Aydin said some important men were killed by ISIS as they were going to meet Adnani with promises of obedience, claimed to be preparing for a coup, so nobody wanted to go with him: “Counting our first meeting with Adnani, I held a total of 6 meetings. I obeyed him, and called Ebu Yusuf over the internet. He joined as well. From the second meeting onward I was in Syria for the whole process. After what I said, Ebu Ubeyde’s and Ebu Yusuf’s groups joined ISIS.”