ISIS member Mahmut Dündar from Turkey stated that ISIS had changed their organization from an emirate to a province in Turkey in mid-2017.
Mahmut Dündar, an ISIS member from Turkey, stated that since 2017, ISIS has begun to infiltrate Turkey and nearby regions such as Idlib.
Mahmut Dündar was born in Adıyaman in 1993. He is well-known in Turkey. He was one of the first members of the Adıyaman Dokumacılar group to join ISIS.
Many members of this group joined the Antep organization and were deployed as suicide bombers after the Dokumacılar group crossed into ISIS-controlled territory in Syria.
The names of Mahmut Dündar, his wife Merve Dündar, his twin brother Deniz Dündar, and his Kazakh wife are also on the Turkish police’s list of ISIS suicide bombers.
Mahmut Dündar was one of the last ISIS members to surrender to the SDF in Baghouz on March 24, 2019.
In the last year, I met Mahmut Dündar several times.
Dündar went into detail about himself in the last two encounters, expressing that he originally travelled to Syria just for migration. Although he remained highly discreet and protective of Turkey-ISIS relations, he happened to provide some details.
Despite being known to the intelligence, Mahmut Dündar claims to have entered and exited Turkey twice, twice with his wife Merve Dündar and once alone with his own identity card.
According to Mahmut Dündar, ISIS has begun to depart Syrian land and relocate to locations such as Turkey and neighbouring regions like Idlib starting from 2017.
“There may be an agreement of interest between ISIS and Turkey,” Mahmut Dündar remarked, referring to a deal between Turkey and ISIS over the release of ISIS members in Turkey. He added, “ISIS has the potential to resurrect in Iraq and Syria. This is consistent with both ISIS’ interests and Erdogan’s objectives for 2023.”
WE WERE KNOWN TO THE POLICE AND THE INTELLIGENCE
Mahmut Dündar stated that he got to know Salafi Islam through his friends while attending a classroom training in 2013 and that he also met Mustafa Dokumacı through his friends. “Mustafa Dokumacı was more experienced than us,” Dündar added, referring to his twin Ömer Deniz Dündar, and friends Kasım Dere, Mustafa Taşar, and Muhammed Zana. “He was the responsible one. In general, we had scientific and invitation rings, just like other congregations in Turkey. We continued our activities until September 2013, when they entered Syria. We had lessons and invitation activities. MIT and the police were both aware of our presence. We were on the lookout for the police and intelligence from the moment I met this group. They were photographing us from civilian cars. We had been known from the beginning.
IHH ASSISTANCE AND GANG LEADERS
Mahmut Dündar stated that they decided to go to Syria with their families after discussing it as a group shortly after receiving the “jihad” lecture from Mustafa Dokumacılar. Mustafa Dokumacılar planned the path and all relationships during the transition to Syria.
Dündar told that they underwent 15 days of military training in Idlib’s Etarib region from a jihadist Turkish gang called Ketibe (Unit) Seyfullah and that they did not have a definite commander. “The border crossings were open. The refugees were arriving and departing. The commanders were always changing. There were people that travelled to and back from Turkey on a regular basis. This group was not involved in the FSA and Jabhat al-Nusra. Turks coming from a province would go to Ketibe Seyfullah if their congregation did not have a unit there. However, they had relationships with both,” he explained.
“They were delivering aid to Front Al Nusra through Turkish groups” said Dündar, noting that all FSA groups received assistance from the Turkish IHH (Humanitarian Aid Foundation) during this process.
ENTRANCE AND EXIT FROM SYRIA THRICE
Mahmut Dündar said that he made three entrances and departures from Syria to Turkey as a member of jihadist groups and ISIS and that they decided in Turkey to pledge allegiance to ISIS.
Dündar continued, “The border was open. I went from Syria to Turkey alone after 15 days of military training. I went to Istanbul and stayed there for 15 days. My leaving had nothing to do with Ketibe Seyfullah that only paved the path. I travelled to Istanbul and urged my friends to join me in Syria for jihad. Then I returned to the unit. We stayed in Syria till the beginning of 2014. Ketibe Seyfullah assigned us an area in Idlib. We held that position, but our residence was on the Aleppo side. In addition, it was ISIS who were dominating there in general. ISIS was being attacked by the FSA and Ahrar Sham. We were already seeing FSA and Ahrar Sham as unbelievers in Turkey. We felt it was right, even though we had not yet joined ISIS. There was no way to properly integrate with them. The FSA and Ahrar Sham were laying siege to the area we were in. When the attacks began, we decided to return to Turkey as a group and join ISIS there. In January 2014, we returned to Turkey. We were apprehended by the troops at the Hatay border. There were me, my family, my brother and his family, Kasım Dere and his family, Mustafa Dokumacılar and his family, and some Turks that I didn’t know. They transported us to headquarters, where we were identified by our criminal record check, but we were released the next day.”
WORK IN TURKEY FOR OBEDIENCE AND INVITATION TO ISIS
Mahmut Dündar stated that they joined ISIS in Turkey in the middle of 2014, adding, “Our head was Mustafa Dokumacılar. We learned more about ISIS and its ideology thanks to him. He was in charge of all meetings and communications with ISIS. We joined it through him. In Turkey, we continued our lessons as previously. We gained a greater understanding of jihad and we started inviting people to ISIS. Intelligence and security were still following us around all the time. They opened an al-Qaeda file at the time. I was interrogated three times myself. They drafted an indictment, but we never appeared in court.”
Dündar claimed that he did not know Yunus Emre Alagöz, the suicide bomber of the Ankara Train Station Massacre, but that he had visited the Islamic Tea House once or twice, which he owned.
“The tea house was under constant police control and follow-up. However, ISIS propaganda and recruitment were also being carried out here,” he stated.
WITH OWN IDENTITY CARDS IN ELAZIG AND ANTEP
Mahmut Dündar stated that they travelled into Syria again in October 2014 on the orders of ISIS and that his family, Mahmut Taşar and his family, relocated from Antep to Rai and then to Tal Abyad (kr. Girê Spî).
Dündar explained that his wife grew unwell while he was waiting for military training at the time and that they returned to Turkey in November 2014 with ISIS’ approval. “My wife was treated in Tal Abyad for a period. When that didn’t work, they issued a report for a medical operation in Turkey. ISIS arranged it. My family and I went to Antep and Elazig. I met with a couple of ISIS members there. I got some money. In general, I was aware of what to do and how to act. My wife was treated in public hospitals, but generally in private hospitals. In Turkey, we acted with our own identity cards,” he said.
ÖMER DENIZ DÜNDAR WAS IN IDLIB WHILE HIS WIFE WAS IN AZAZ
Mahmut Dündar said that he and his family travelled from Antep to Rai and then to Tal Abyad in April or May 2015, and he left his family here to attend military training in Manbij. He claims to have served in a military unit in Tabqa before taking over administrative and logistical duties at a military training facility.
According to Mahmut Dündar, he knew about all of the suicide bombing attacks in Turkey planned by the Antep group and carried out mainly by members of the Dokumacı Group, of which he was a part, over the internet.
When asked why the Turkish police mentioned the name of his twin, Ömer Deniz Dündar, in the ISIS Ankara massacre, he said, “They most likely monitored the phone numbers of ISIS members at the border and in Turkey and concluded that my brother would enter Turkey. We were in Tabqa with my brother when the explosion occurred and this news broke. When my brother’s name was mentioned, I created a Facebook account and informed my father that the assailant was not my brother, and he was with me.”
Mahmut Dündar claims that his twin, Ömer Deniz Dündar, who is also on the Turkish government’s list of ISIS suicide bombers, has always been a member of ISIS’ Alakat (Foreign Relations and Operations) Turkey Team, and also part of a Turkish unit named Fursan Hilafe (Riders of the Caliphate) affiliated with it.
Dündar claims that his twin was dispatched to Idlib for a mission in 2016 and he remained in communication with him till the end of 2018.
Noting that Walentina Slobodjouk, the Kazakh-origin German wife of Ömer Deniz Dündar, who is on Turkey’s suicide bomber list, departed ISIS territory at the end of 2017, he continued, “I discovered from some Turks I knew that my brother’s wife was in one of the tent camps in Azaz. I made contact with her. In the tenth month of 2018, we lost contact. I never heard from him again after that.”
Mahmut Dündar stated that Mustafa Dokumacı was one of Nusret Yılmaz’s closest men and he was removed from ISIS-controlled territory in early 2018, and ended up most likely in Idlib.
ISIS TURNED TURKEY INTO A PROVINCE IN 2017
Dündar stated that ISIS’ Foreign Relations division began to participate in the Turkey case in February 2017 and turned Turkey from an emirate into a province in mid 2017. “In 2017, as the Islamic State began to lose its territories and withdraw, it saw it as a benefit to declare Turkey as a province. In other words, activities on Turkey intensified,” he stated.
Dündar explained the organizational and working system of ISIS after determining Turkey as a province: “It was once associated with the Foreign Ministry. The employee from the foreign office was going through all of the files. However, after becoming a province, it was privatized. A governor was chosen. This governor reported directly to the Supreme Military Council (Lijne Mufavada).
ISIS ACTIVITIES IN TURKEY INTENSIFIED
Mahmut Dündar stated that Nusret Yılmaz (Abu Fuday) is the first ISIS governor of “Turkey province,” and that Nusret Yılmaz is organizationally immediately subordinate to Abdullah Qardash (Emir Muhammed El Mewla El Selbi), the new ISIS caliph today. Dündar noted that Nusret Yılmaz died in an airstrike in Deir ez-Zor towards the end of 2017, and said, “I worked with Nusret Yılmaz from the second month of 2017 until his death. He held the position of governor. I was in charge of communications and served as the communications commandant. Following the death of Nusret Yılmaz, Abu Adil Türkmeni was named as Turkey’s governor. In early 2018, he also departed Islamic State territory. I’m not sure where he went, but he became Turkey’s governor.”
Despite the fact that Turkey was turned from a branch under Foreign Relations into a province, Mahmut Dündar noted that a Foreign Relations team was formed at the governorship of Turkey, and added, “Since the beginning of 2017, ISIS has deployed several amirs to Dashisha, Idlib, and Turkey.”
ACTIONS IN TURKEY PROHIBITED
Dündar stated that he became the commander of the Foreign Relations Team in Deir ez-Zor when Abu Adil Turkmen relocated to areas outside of ISIS control.
Dündar said: “Throughout the Fuday process, I kept in touch with authorities in Turkey from the Islamic State’s territory. I was communicating with roughly 20 people in encrypted form. Fuday was sending encrypted messages and I was sending them to them, who all had code names. The contents of the messages were only known to Fuday and high ISIS management. I learned at the end of 2017 that ISIS had banned actions in Turkey. There were various Turkey-related activities but it was not in our advantage to carry out actions. There were invites and organizational activities aimed at Turkey, both in and out of the media. Previously, ISIS’ media wing was subservient to the “Ministry of the Press.” When Turkey was declared as a province following ISIS’ loss of land and withdrawal, the media’s coverage of Turkey was directly linked to the province.”
RELOCATION TO TURKEY OR NEARBY REGIONS
Although Mahmut Dündar didn’t want to answer when asked about moving to Turkey, he said, “Since the first day I entered the file, I’ve known that the Turkish province has a purpose to be built. There is a chance that the organization will eventually relocate to Turkey or a region nearby,” he said.
Dundar stated that he and the administration discussed this issue on the day the Foreign Relations Team started working on Turkey, and said, “They asked me whether I would accept working with them there and I generally accepted the terms. I stated that I would base my decision to relocate to another area on the conditions. This is how I started working. In the middle of 2017, I took a firm decision not to leave the Islamic State’s territories. Others were sent to various regions based on their own preferences or instructions. As a result, they did not discuss all the things with me for their own protection. I was now the head of the Foreign Relations team’s Turkey work in ‘Islamic State territory’ from the beginning of 2018 until the end of the year. I was in charge of coordinating communications between Turkey Province and Bereke. I was dealing with some financial issues. I was dealing with topics like who should leave and what the rest would do. By the end of 2018, more land had already been lost. For security reasons, I cut off my contact with Turkey. I heard that since the beginning of 2017, families have been taken to Turkey by smugglers.”
I DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE THE TERRITORIES OF ISIS
When we asked the question, “Why did you want to stay in the lands that ISIS declared as a State until the end, but did not agree to go to different areas?”, Mahmut Dündar replied that, “When we left our own lands, things could go beyond us. I didn’t like that. There were infiltrations,interventions and guidance by the intelligence. There was a lot of wrongdoing. Members of Foreign Affairs lacked experience. For example, I do not believe that the explosions in Turkey are in ISIS’ best interests. Again, the broadcast of beheaded people through the media and so on. Doing such things without inviting people to Islam feels wrong. Those who did it may have seen it in advantage and followed their faith. But people do not accept this in the twenty-first century. These are the kinds of things that turn people off from Islam rather than bring them closer to it. As a result, I did not find it safe and appropriate for me to go to a different area other than my own.”
When asked about the Kobanê attack and its aftermath, Mahmut Dündar said, “I don’t know who gave the orders for the Kobanê attack or how it was planned. At the time, I was in Turkey. There was a lot of debate within the group, particularly after the devastating loss and withdrawal. Everyone was perplexed as to why Baghdadi and his administration made such a move. Many questioned why Kobane was targeted rather than Damascus or Hama.”
ISIS MAY BE DIRECTED TO IRAQ AND SYRIA AGAIN
When asked what the purpose was with the release of ISIS members in Turkey such as Ömer Yetek and others like him, Mahmut Dündar answered,
“If such a policy exists after the 2017 al-Bab war, they must have an agreement of interest with ISIS. Erdogan has set objectives for 2013. They are claiming right to Mosul-Kirkuk. They want to take over a large portion of the Syrian and Iraqi soil. In this regard, they would want ISIS to re-emerge in Syria and Iraq. Chaos would always work for them. It is not that ISIS is letting others to use them; rather, it is advantageous. To us, it is a religious duty to wage a war against Iran and Shiites. I don’t believe the United States and Europe will support Erdogan’s 2023 aspirations. They were, nevertheless, together in it at first. The US and Turkey worked collaboratively to clear and open the borders. The objective was to intervene in Syria. It was in their best interests that we confront the Nusayri government. But then the US’ plans shifted slightly. Perhaps the war against Iran and the Shiites will benefit the US as well.”