Intelligence Brief: Turkey arresting new ISIS leader amid its stiff opposition against Sweden, Finland joining NATO citing "sheltering terrorist"- coincidence or connection?

    By Evarist Chahali, intelligence analyst and Ujasusi Blog's author.

    What happened?

    Senior Turkish officials said Islamic State’s new leader has been captured in a recent raid in Istanbul.

    Anti-terrorism police and intelligence agents detained a man they believe has led the jihadist group since its previous chief was killed in a US operation in Syria in February, the officials said, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

    Turkish news website OdaTV identified the arrested man as Abu al-Hassan al-Qurayshi without saying how it obtained the information. Previous reports have given a similar name for the new Islamic State leader.

    Bloomberg News couldn’t independently verify the identity of the man detained by Turkish authorities.

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been informed of his capture, the officials said Thursday. He’s expected to announce the arrest in the coming days, OdaTV said.

    The officials said the terrorist leader was captured following lengthy police surveillance of a house where he was staying. OdaTV said police didn’t open fire during the raid.

    Why does it matter?

    The killing of his predecessor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, during an overnight raid by US special forces on 3 February, did not make much difference as the outfit continued with its terror campaigns in different parts of the world. Likewise, the arrst the the new leader is unlikely to have any significant impact.

    However, it might help Ankara to counter claims that the country has been at best turning a blind eye, at worst actively supporting ISIS against their common enemies, the Kurds.

    Furthermore, Turkey is likely to capitalise on the terror leader's capture to boost its counterterrorism credentials, especially among its NATO allies. The incident happened at a crucial time as Ankara has been vehemently opposing requests from Sweden and Finland to join the Treaty, claiming the two Nordic countries have been supporting terrorists.

    Additionally, it has demanded that demand that Sweden and Finland extradite 33 people accused by Turkey to be terrorists.

    Coincidence or connection?

    But did Qurayshi's capture and the ongoing Turkey vs Sweden and Finland NATO spat a coincidence or underlines a possible connection between Ankara and ISIS? Did President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government turn against the terror group to streghten its case against Sweden and Finland joining NATO?

    Conclusion:

    Unless there would be strong evidence connecting Turkey to supporting ISIS, which is quite unlikely, accusations against Ankara would remain not make any difference.

    However, while it is obvious that Qurayshi's capture would definitely be exploited by Erdogan to boost his country's image in the fight against terrorism, it could very well attract further inquiries into long-held accusations against Turkey of giving ISIS a "safe zone".

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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