Fugitive Turkish Officers May Join ISIS or Crime Gangs

The Islamic State stands to profit substantially from Turkey’s abortive coup last month.
Dozens of purged or fugitive Turkish generals, major generals, colonels and other officers are on the run outside their country and looking for work.
ISIS already employs between 120 and 150 former senior brass from the military and intelligence agencies of Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Russia, Algeria, Libya, Holland and France as well as Turkey, with more to come.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources estimate the new influx could bring ISIS a crop of some 200 ex-officers, including 50 to 60 former generals, who chose exile after their military coup failed in the third week of July, rather than surrender to President Tayyip Erdogan, and endure years in prison or a detention camp. Among the defectors were also several dozen officers serving as diplomats at Turkish embassies worldwide who decided not to return home.
For most of the fugitives, their first priority was to get their families out of the country. But they were forestalled. By late July, Erdogan loyalists in the intelligence service and police had nabbed the defectors’ close relatives and moved them to detention centers under constant surveillance.
They hoped this kind of pressure would produce information on where the ex-officers were hiding out and who was giving them asylum.
As part of its crackdown, Ankara on August 16 demanded that Athens extradite eight servicemen who fled to Greece. Two commanders, four captains and two sergeants had flown a Sikorsky military helicopter to Alexandroupolis in northern Greece four days after the failed coup. A Greek court later convicted them of entering the country illegally and gave them a two-month jail sentence. Ankara’s request was made in accordance with a bilateral extradition agreement.
While held in a Greek prison, the eight Turkish defectors are safe from Erdogan’s long arm, but their fate is up in the air when they are released in early October. If Greece decides to send them back to Turkey, it will be the first European country and NATO member to give up Turkish soldiers who claimed asylum.
Ankara has already indicated that more extradition requests will be addressed to a number of countries harboring Turkish military attachés linked to the coup.
One of the most serious problems facing the ex-soldiers is earning a living. Military, intelligence and security-related bodies, which usually snap up senior officers with military or intelligence work experience, are loath to employ these Turkish escapees for fear of ructions with the Erdogan government.
Even private security contractors think twice about employing them without authorization from their governments’ security agencies.
In search of work, many of these former Turkish officers are heading for North Africa and Persian Gulf emirates.
Western intelligence and counterterrorism sources monitoring this movement see an analogy in the situation of Saddam Hussein’s generals whom the US 2003 invasion of Iraq threw out of their jobs. Instead of recruiting them to the post-Saddam regime army, the Americans hunted them down. Eventually, most of these out-of-work officers found their place in the top military command of ISIS and are earning high salaries generous enough to support their families who relocated to various Arab countries.
Another relevant example is that of the Serbian and Croatian officers, who fought in the war in Bosnia in the mid-1990s. These officers, most of them loyal to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, took off to escape prosecution for their war crimes. They found their feet in the Balkans and in particular in the tiny republic of Montenegro, which has grown into a thriving global center for the illegal arms trade, not excluding nuclear materials.
The exiled Turkish officers may well follow similar paths to those their Iraqi, Serb and the Croatian predecessors chose when they too were in exile and on the run.

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