After deporting hundreds of people coming from Western countries to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, Turkish security units apprehended nine Indian citizens attempting to cross the Syrian border to join ISIS. But following their deportation, Indian authorities released all nine on Monday.
Over the weekend, Interior Minister Efkan Ala said that 10,000 people from 91 countries have been banned from entering Turkey on the grounds of having links to ISIS, adding that 1,085 people from 74 countries were deported for similar reasons. The government also slammed its allies for failing to cooperate on intelligence sharing to prevent those planning to join ISIS from traveling.
Police in the southern Indian city of Bangalore said that the nine Indians were released after they admitted during questioning that they had planned to cross over to the territory controlled by ISIS, but denied being members of the organization, which is banned in India. "We set them free as no incriminating material or any evidence was found against them," Bangalore police Chief M. N. Reddi told reporters Monday.
Turkish authorities detained the nine Indian citizens – a family of seven and two engineers who were in the country on tourist visas – as they were trying to enter Syria on Friday. Police quoted the group as telling their interrogators that they had only wanted to help civilians who had been affected by the fighting in Syria and Iraq, large parts of which are also controlled by ISIS.
Last week, Turkish security units detained many foreign fighters either before they made it into Syria or while trying to return back to their country of origin through Turkey. Recently, anti-terror police detained Cabdiwahb Cige Moxamed, a British national who returned to Turkey after allegedly fighting for ISIS in Syria. Moxamed illegally crossed into Turkey through the country's Hatay border province and traveled to İzmir in western Turkey where he stayed in the workplace of an unidentified Turkish national. He showed a Syrian ID with the name "Mustafa Halid" to the police questioning him, but the police found out the identity was false and found an authentic British passport in his possession. He is currently being held on charges of forgery for his fake Syrian ID. Authorities said the man was arrested on Wednesday.
Police also detained nine people including eight Uighurs and two Syrian nationals attempting to enter Syria from the southern province of Kilis. The suspects, who reportedly sought to join ISIS, will be deported.
The country stepped up measures along its 911-kilometer border with Syria against infiltration from the war-torn country and vice versa. However, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has acknowledged that the country will never be able to make the border completely secure.
French intelligence has been highly criticized after its failure to prevent the terror attacks in Paris. Since ISIS captured the city of Mosul in Iraq last summer, Turkish leaders have called for broader cooperation to fight ISIS in the region and prevent militants from joining the group, which also threatens the West.
On every possible occasion, including the NATO summit in Wales and the G20 summit in Australia, Turkish leaders have said international cooperation and intelligence sharing is vital to combat the influx of foreign fighters into ISIS-held regions in Syria and Iraq. France also apprehended and interrogated its citizens who were deported by Turkey, and in some cases deported French citizens arrived back in Turkey to join ISIS, but were sent back to France again.
Marie Harf, the deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State, said in a press statement released last month that the U.S. is working very closely with Turkish authorities to identify and block the passage through Turkey of foreign fighters who want to join ISIS.
Speaking at a Daily Press Briefing, Harf underlined that Turkey is trying its best to stop the flow of foreign fighters and that it is cooperating with the U.S. In response to a question about what U.S. allies such as Turkey are doing in the fight against ISIS and terrorism, Harf said: "It's a huge problem," adding that the borders are very long and often very porous.
"And believe me, Turkey is affected by this more than almost any other country given their geographic proximity," she said, underlining that Turkey is aware that ISIS and terrorism pose a serious threat and a problem. She said that Turkey is working very closely with the U.S. to try and close the borders to crack down on the flow of foreign fighters.