Sentenced to a 20 year prison term for handing mass murderer Lt. Col. Hussein al-Harmoush back to Syria, Turkish Intelligence Agency MIT veteran Önder Sığırcıkoğlu escaped prison and fled from Turkey. This is Part 2 of the interview he gave to Ömer Ödemiş for leading Turkish news site OdaTV.
Murderers were transported by official vehicles
From March to August 2011 Önder Sığırcıkoğlu interviewed over 4 thousand Syrians, drawing up fact sheets on each for his agency. He was tasked with keeping regular contact especially with the renegade military residents of the camps set up in Hatay. However the officer corps that was being put together included pretenders as well.
“Mustafa Kassoum whom I seized together with Harmoush was not of military origin. But he was adept at feeding a stream of lies and fantasies to international backers to collect money,” says Sığırcıkoğlu. “An instructor in Syria in his earlier life, Kassoum became a leader of some significance in the course of the revolts and played an outsized part in the chaos that gripped the country. We suspected he was connected to certain Arab intelligence agencies all along. We also knew that he was pocketing the donations he collected on behalf of the militants.”
INCURSIONS INTO SYRIA CONTROLLED BY MIT’S ADANA OFFICE
Sığırcıkoğlu explains that all incursions of jihadi murderers from Turkey to Syrian territory was organized by the Adana regional office of MIT. “The office was given advanced notice on groups preparing for a raid. Once the order came down, agency workers were assigned to facilitate the passage in utmost secrecy. I gather Hatay office has been boosted recently to take on most of these dealings. We usually borrowed non-military official vehicles. Most of the time we got the vehicles from AFAD – the Disaster and Emergency Management Department. When we were short of official cars we rented some, again in AFAD’s name. Great care was taken to avoid a military display and to put a civilian face on all this activity.”
ABANDONED FACILITIES USED FOR LOGISTICS
The outskirts of Reyhanli town is dotted with scores of abandoned buildings and facilities almost all of which are used as logistic centers for militants’ supplies, says Sığırcıkoğlu. “The old Monopoly Administration warehouse within Reyhanli proper also serves the same purpose,” he notes. “Supplies brought over from other regions were collected in these centers until they were transferred to final destinations over Reyhanli, Yayladag or Kilis borders. Again, the military nature of the shipments were carefully kept under cover.”
HATAY TEEMING WITH SPOOKS
It’s no wonder that the region has become a magnet for intelligence operatives from all over the world. “American, British, Jordanian, Saudi, you name it,” says Sığırcıkoğlu. “Hatay is teeming with spooks from all of them. In fact we determined that Turkish journalist and academician Mehmet Y. who made regular trips in and out of Syria was working for German intelligence. Hatay became the spook capital of the world. Every intelligence agency you could think of opened up shop in Hatay. Some are involved in public relations while others work to shape events, contacting and trying to steer various terror groups to their own purposes. Many of these are based in Kusakli village which has become out of bounds for civilians.”
WEAPONS FROM ALBANIA AND FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
Weapons were primarily brought in by ship. Sığırcıkoğlu remembers seeing a lot of armament that had previously been used in Libya. “There appeared to be a preference for brands from non-EU countries. Weapons of Albanian or former Yugoslavian origin were brought in, for example, and were dealt out to salafi terror gangs.” Indeed, I personally saw reports that mentioned I.K.86 bullets. I.K. is the acronym for Igman-Konyits, former Yugoslavian weapons and munitions factory in present-day Bosnia.
“All transportation and transfers were organized by MIT Adana Regional Directorate, under full knowledge of the then regional director Nihat B. and his deputy Mücahittin K. But there have been occasions when Ankara bypassed the regional directorate and carried out some operations over one-to-one connections with figures on the ground,” Sığırcıkoğlu states.
DIRECT PHONE LINES FOR KEY PLAYERS
“Beginning from early August 2011, departmental managers and senior employees from MIT Strategic Intelligence Department and Counter-Espionage Department came to Hatay for private meetings with high level opposition organizers, particularly with the founders and top names of the Free Syrian Army. Figures they met included Harmoush, Riad al Asad and Ahmed Hijazi among others. I found out about this from the grapevine as well as some of their written exchanges. Ankara was now bypassing us and establishing direct connections. The Ankara team also gave their contacts special mobile phones so they could communicate over a hotline. When these guys neglected to check their phones, Ankara prompted us to go and warn them to respond to the calls.”
HEYSEM TOPALCA LONG AN MIT CONTACT
Asked about the notorious Heysem Topalca, Sığırcıkoğlu replies he has known this criminal for years. “Topalca used to be a cab driver and smuggler who operated between Turkey and Syria. He had long been an MIT contact, but not a figure of any significance. My superiors blew him out of proportion. He was one of the leaders of the Bayir Bucak Turkmen group, a radical. From what I gather, he has gained more importance after my time.”
PREPARED TO TESTIFY IN INTERNATIONAL COURTS
Önder Sığırcıkoğlu has no regrets for his daring feat. He insists he would take the same action today if he was faced with the choice:
“I acted out of conscience… I couldn’t be an accomplice to the massacres… Handing a mass murderer back to his home country is not a crime in my view. I was betrayed by some of the friends I set out with. The identities of the secret witnesses are known to me. I was sentenced, and now I’m a wanted man with a red notice over my head. So be it. I am prepared to testify in international courts of justice, to state in full detail everything I did, witnessed, or know about. AKP government has defied international law to support terror networks against Syria. I am ready to do anything to expose the malignant support and to see those responsible pay for their crimes.”
Translated by: @Alamet0