The UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee on December 6, 2019 amended 85 entries on its sanctions list, which was defined in Article 2 of UNSC resolution 2368 (2017).
Not surprisingly, the amended list includes additional information on a Turkish national who was previously designated as a terrorist by the UN; foreign nationals using Turkey as a conduit to conduct terror operations and as a jihadist highway to move extremist figures to and from conflict areas; and members of Syrian al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusrah (al-Nusrah Front), which was supported by Turkey and Qatar.
According to the UN list, Tarad Mohammad Aljarba, a 39-year-old Saudi national, has worked as the emir for borders and logistical support for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He facilitated the travel from Turkey’s Gaziantep province to Syria of prospective ISIL fighters from Australia, Europe and the Middle East. Aljarba, who was managing ISIL’s guesthouse in Azaz as of 2014, was put on the terror list by the UN on September 29, 2015.
Among the entries amended in the UN’s ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List, Adem Yılmaz, a 39-year-old Turkish national who was set free by Turkish authorities in February 2019 following his deportation from Germany, where he had completed an 11-year prison sentence in 2018, is a key figure in exposing links between Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), run by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confidant Hakan Fidan, and UN-sanctioned Turkish nationals.
Yılmaz was listed as a member of the Islamic Jihad Group, also known as the Islamic Jihad Union, for participating in such activities as the recruitment of new members and financing, planning and facilitating terror acts. Yilmaz had been associated with Fritz Martin Gelowicz, a German national who trained in Pakistan and confessed in 2009 to plotting to bomb American targets in Germany, and reportedly worked for Turkish intelligence according to a Der Spiegel report that included a summary of the testimony given by his associate Atilla Selek, who spoke to German authorities in a terrorist investigation.
The Islamic Jihad Group is an offshoot of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Yilmaz attended a terrorist training camp in South Asia in 2006 where he received instruction in explosives and later set up a cell in Germany to carry out bomb attacks against American citizens and entities in that country. Investigators discovered his group had acquired a hydrogen peroxide solution and electrical devices for triggering detonation as well as several detonators. He was arrested on September 4, 2007 in the German city of Medebach and was sentenced on March 4, 2010 to 11 years in prison.
Ever since the early days of the Syrian conflict, Turkey has backed mainly Sunni rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad. President Erdoğan’s government has offered a fertile environment for all sorts of radical groups and contributed to al-Nusrah’s rise in Syria. The UN amended list contains individuals and groups that played important roles in that process.
Omar Diaby, a 40-year-old Senegalese national, is the leader of an armed group linked to the al-Nusrah Front and a key facilitator for a Syrian foreign terrorist fighter network. He is also active in terrorist propaganda through the Internet. Diaby was put on the terror list by the UN on September 23, 2014, and his entry was amended on December 4, 2019. Abdelrahman Mouhamad Zafir Al Dabidi, a 49-year-old Saudi national listed on August 15, 2014 by the UN as an al-Nusrah suspect, is a facilitator of foreign terrorist fighter recruiting. He is a member and regional commander of the al-Nusrah Front.
Said Arif, a citizen of Algeria, is listed as a member of the al-Nusrah Front. Arif is a veteran member of the “Chechen Network” (not listed) and other terrorist groups. He was convicted for his role and membership in the “Chechen Network” in France in 2006 and joined the terrorist organization in October 2013. Maysar Ali al-Juburi, a 44-year-old Iraqi national listed on September 23, 2014 (entry amended on December 6, 2019) by the UN as an al-Nusrah suspect, was the “sharia amir” of the group as of early 2014.
Furthermore, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades were listed on September 23, 2014 and amended on December 6, 2019 by the UN committee. The brigade is an armed group that has carried out joint attacks with the al-Nusrah Front.
Turkey’s relationship with al-Nusrah was first voiced by Francis Ricciardone, who served as US ambassador to Turkey from 2011 to mid-2014, during an Atlantic Council conference on September 11, 2014. Ricciardone underlined Ankara’s relationship with the groups including the al-Nusrah Front, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, saying, “The Turks frankly worked with groups for a period, including al-Nusrah, whom we finally designated as we were not willing to work with [them].”
Similarly, a US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report concluded that the al-Nusrah Front “probably received logistical, financial and material assistance from the elements of the Turkish and Qatari governments.” The report, dated June 2, 2016, provided a detailed account of the status of major combatants in Syria, with al-Nusrah boasting as many as 10,400 fighters due to increased recruitment.
However, the Turkish government turned a blind eye to the warnings from the international community and considered al-Nusrah an alternative tool for toppling President Assad. For instance, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Turkey’s permanent representative to the UN office in New York and former undersecretary of the foreign ministry, voiced criticism in 2013 of the designation of al-Nusrah as a terrorist organization and told his American counterparts that it was more important to focus on the chaos that the Syrian regime had supposedly created instead of groups such as al-Nusrah, former Washington correspondent for the Hürriyet daily Tolga Tanış reported.
UN Security Council resolution 2368 (2017) imposes individual targeted sanctions on individuals, groups, undertakings and entities designated on the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List. In accordance with paragraph 55 of the resolution, the committee makes accessible a narrative summary of reasons for listing. The sanctions list currently contains the names of 260 individuals and 89 entities and was last updated on March 4, 2020.