Head of Iraqi military intelligence Lt. Gen. Saad al-Allaq said in a Monday interview with CNN that ISIS is regrouping and planning new attacks as well as prison breaks.
According to al-Allaq, top ISIS leaders have fled north from Syria into Turkey, where they are currently trying to reestablish the organization.
“Some of its important leadership fled north, I mean in the direction of neighboring countries and into border areas like Gazientep [in southern Turkey],” said al-Allaq. “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 [a] large amount of money and have secretly entered Turkish territory.”
Al-Allaq said that the ISIS supporters who managed to flee into Turkey “play a key role in the recruitment of fighters and terrorists.”
In comments to CNN, spokesmen for the Turkish government said they were looking into al-Allaq’s allegations. Turkey has arrested a sister, wife, and other family members of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-styled “Caliph” of ISIS, who was killed by U.S. special forces in October. The country has also detained 42 people accused of carrying out wire transfers for ISIS.
Turkey’s recent invasion of northeast Syria sparked fears among U.S. lawmakers that ISIS members held in Kurdish detention facilities would be set free in the ensuing fighting. President Trump has made clear his backing for Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, although he has threatened to impose sanctions against Turkey if the country acted in ways Trump considered “off-limits.”
Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) has said the withdrawal of American troops from the region in advance of Turkey’s invasion was a “disaster in the making” that “ensures ISIS comeback.”