More evidence has recently come to light which further confirms that the seizure of the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in June 2014 was knowingly allowed by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to make room for negotiations with the terrorist group, release ISIS detainees and tap into smuggled oil.
Öztürk Yılmaz, Turkey's then-consul general in Mosul, said on November 13 he believes some people in the government sold him and the other hostages out in order to benefit financially from ISIS oil in Syria.
"I had resisted [as a hostage] for 101 days. ... But the low lifes here, the dishonest people [government leaders], threw us under the bus. They cooperated with ISIS to get money and oil in Syria. They sold us out," he told fellow party members at a political convention.
Yılmaz retired from the foreign ministry and ventured into opposition politics, eventually establishing the Renew Party (Yenilik Partisi). As a man who knew all the secrets of the hostage saga, he decided to spill the beans, publicly accusing Erdoğan and his associates of cooperating with ISIS in a clandestine deal.
He said he had sent cables and made hundreds of phone calls as ISIS approached the consulate, providing coordinates for ISIS fighter units but couldn't get Turkish authorities to launch airstrikes on the advancing ISIS troops. He also revealed that Turkey had secretly pulled out all intelligence officers from the area before the seizure, another smoking gun that indicates the secret cooperation with ISIS.
The emergency cables and reports he sent to the foreign ministry in Ankara disappeared, and for that he accused then-foreign affairs undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, the number two at the ministry at the time, of playing a key role in the plot. His calls to Sinirlioğlu during those 101 days of captivity with a phone he kept hidden from his ISIS captors remained mainly unreturned.
In an interview he gave on November 28, the former diplomat provided further details on how the consulate fell to the advancing ISIS troops, saying that some members of the security detail recently deployed to protect the consulate cooperated with ISIS. It appears Erdoğan did not want to leave anything to chance and sent a select team of guards to the consulate for a smooth carrying out of the plot.
Talking about a special operations police officer (Özel Harekat Polisi) identified only by the initials A.Y., Yılmaz said: "The man is an ISIS member. ... He was deployed and arrived a few days before the [ISIS] raid. He had signed up for watch duty at the gate. It turned out that he also spoke Arabic. This opened the door to the ISIS militants and forced the consulate personnel surrender to ISIS. He had all the guns collected. This is the person who was opposed when I ordered the guards to open fire and shoot at ISIS."
On December 7, three weeks after making public accusations of the government conspiring with ISIS, Yılmaz was injured in a knife attack by a man identified as Serhat K. at his office in Ankara. He was hospitalized with multiple knife wounds. He accused President Erdoğan of being behind the attack and vowed to not remain silent despite the attack and threats. The attack is believed to have been a message to him to not speak about the Mosul hostage crisis.
Police detained Serhat at a bus terminal and examined his cell phone, which showed that he had searched the internet for the punishment for murder and the equivalent of $1.5 million in Turkish lira. This suggested that he was offered money to kill Yılmaz, but the former diplomat survived with four knife wounds. According to Yılmaz, the assailant wanted to cut his throat, a signature method of killing for ISIS terrorists.
In his testimony Serhat said he carried out the attack because of Yılmaz's criticism of government leaders, that he wanted to punish him and that he acted alone. "I have not received any instructions from anyone regarding this attack. I did it of my own free will," he added.
In a criticism of the government, Yılmaz's lawyer, Ova Baksi, said she was denied access to statements given by the assailant to the police and public prosecutor although her client was listed as the victim. She said the interrogation of the suspect lasted only a little over three minutes, suggesting that the government was in a hurry to cover up the investigation.
In an interview with a Turkish TV station on December 13, Yılmaz revealed that he had submitted multiple requests to the governor's office for police protection before the attack but was denied on every occasion. No protection was assigned after the attack, either. He also alleged that the assailant is linked to mafia groups in Istanbul that are protected by the government. There has been no condemnation of the attack issued by government leaders since the incident, which speaks volumes about the government's complicity according to Yılmaz, who claimed the government is bent on ruling the country with threats of murder, intimidation and unleashing mafia and terrorist groups on opponents and critics.
Similar claims about conspiring with ISIS were also made by Derviş Öztürk, a chef who was one of the hostages at the consulate and now works with Yılmaz in his political party. He said half of the protective detail at the consulate were sympathizers of ISIS and accused the Erdoğan government of abandoning them to the mercy of the terrorist group.
During the days in captivity, Yılmaz managed to make phone calls to Sinirlioğlu on the mobile phone he had kept hidden from ISIS. That communication was something Sinirlioğlu and other Turkish officials including Hakan Fidan, the head of intelligence agency MIT, did not factor into their original plan. They had to make sure the calls were not registered or leaked.
According to Yılmaz, Turkish officials leaked information about the stashed phone to ISIS.
"I had two phones. When ISIS started collecting phones, I handed over one of the phones and did not give them the other. I dismantled the phone and hid it since I had to communicate with the government. I spoke in secrecy. I provided details [to Sinirlioğlu on the phone while I was] in the bathroom. The battery was dying, and I couldn't trust anyone. I had to keep it all secret. After I made the calls, ISIS started to conduct searches. How did they know I was making phone calls? It turns out they were getting the information from Ankara. They [officials in Ankara] wanted to have my phone seized. After each call, ISIS carried out a search," Yılmaz said.
Sinirlioğlu urged Yılmaz not to call anybody except him and to never tell anybody about what was going on at the consulate. The emergency call center, set up by the foreign ministry for family members concerned about the hostages, were not provided any details by Sinirlioğlu or any other senior staff at the ministry.
Sinirlioğlu, who served an unusually long time as undersecretary at the foreign ministry, has been a loyal confident of Erdoğan, with whom he plotted dozens of clandestine operations, many illegal, including staging a false flag military intervention in Syria. He was one of the ardent supporters of armed conflict in a leaked recording in March 2014 in which he, Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and others are heard discussing the possibility of an intervention in Syria in a false flag operation conducted by Turkish intelligence agency MİT.
Abdullah Bozkurt, a Middle East Forum Writing Fellow, is a Swedish-based investigative journalist and analyst who runs the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network and is chairman of the Stockholm Center for Freedom.