Senior Islamic State members with access to “huge” amounts of money are in Turkey and plotting a comeback, an Iraqi spy chief has warned.
Lieutenant General Saad al-Allaq, head of Iraq’s Military Intelligence, claimed in an interview with CNN that Iraq has given Ankara dossiers on nine alleged leaders of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), including top financiers for the terror group.
The general said senior Isil figures known as “emirs” have access to vast reserves of cash and were forming new cells in Turkey.
He claimed many of them had managed to escape from Isil’s final patch of territory in Baghouz, eastern Syria, after bribing Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to reach Idlib in the north-west. From there, he said, they crossed the border to Gaziantep in southern Turkey.
“Some of its important leadership fled north, I mean in the direction of neighbouring countries and into border areas like Gazientep,” Lt. Gen. Allaq said.
“They have secretly crossed into these areas from the Syrian-Turkish border – top leaders who have money. They crossed with the help of smugglers by paying large amount of money and have secretly entered Turkish territory.”
He added: “Those elements who are right now in Turkey play a key role in the recruitment of fighters and terrorists.”
CNN was shown Iraq’s arrest warrants for the nine men, who are described as bomb makers.
Lt. Gen. Allaq said the men were “among the best bomb makers that Isis ever had.”
Lt. Gen. Allaq, who rarely gives interviews, said Iraq had intelligence that Isil leaders were planning jailbreaks of its supporters held in prisons and camps across Syria and Iraq.
Turkey told the US network they were looking into the allegations.
He said a new Isil mission code-named “Break Down the Fences” intended to storm jails where their followers were being held and try to replenish its manpower.
Several high-profile Isil figures and their family members have been discovered in recent weeks in or near Turkey.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader, was found hiding three miles from the border of Turkey in the Syria village of Barisha in Idlib, where he was killed in a US raid on October 26.
Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, Isil’s spokesman, was killed the following day several miles away near the town of Jarablus, which is under Turkish administration.
Turkey then announced arrests it had made of Baghdadi’s relatives, who had apparently been hiding in the country.