A confidant of the Turkish president who was involved in secret talks with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been appointed by the UN secretary-general as special coordinator for Afghanistan.
Feridun Sinirlioğlu, a former diplomat who for years had carried out the dirty dealings of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was named by UN chief Antonio Guterres as special coordinator for the independent assessment of Afghanistan on April 23.
Sinirlioğlu played a critical role in a plot that envisaged the deliberate surrender of the Turkish consulate general in Mosul to advancing ISIS fighters in order to make room for negotiations with the terrorist group, release ISIS detainees from Turkish prisons and tap into smuggled oil. Nordic Monitor previously published a detailed investigative piece on the entire hostage crisis in December 2022.
Öztürk Yılmaz, Turkey's then-consul general in Mosul and one of the hostages captured by ISIS, said on November 13, 2022 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.
As a man who knew all the secrets of the hostage saga, he decided to spill the beans, publicly accusing Erdogan 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 confirmed 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 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, 2022, the former diplomat provided further details on how the consulate fell to the advancing ISIS troops, saying some members of the security detail recently deployed to protect the consulate cooperated with ISIS. It appears Erdogan 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 to 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."
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 didn't 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 confidant of Erdogan, 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 Fidan and others were heard discussing the possibility of an intervention in Syria in a false flag operation conducted by 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.