Initial findings point to Turkish and Syrian involvement in ISIS prison attack in Hesekê
According to initial findings, Turkish and Syrian intelligence services were involved in the ISIS prison attack in Hesekê.
The ISIS attack on January 20 against the Sinaa Prison where more than 5 thousand detainees are held in Hesekê's Xiwêran neighbourhood has had a broad repercussion. Although this large-scale offensive was foiled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Internal Security Forces (Asayish), there are several questions that remain to be answered.
As the SDF and Asayish forces repelled the ISIS attack gradually, internal and external connections of the attack have begun to emerge. Initial findings point to the Turkish state and the Syrian government in Damascus.
Some of the meetings held before the attack, the planning phase and the objectives of the attack show that the attack in question was not only a sophisticated action of ISIS, and that there was serious multilateral aid from outside. Some of the data obtained from the ground reveal that the attack was organized from Ankara.
HOW WAS THE ATTACK ORGANIZED?
ISIS members who were captured following the attack confessed that the attack had a long preparation period, and its planning was drafted in Serêkaniyê (ar: Ras al-Ain) which is occupied by the Turkish state. Months before the attack, ISIS members came individually or in small groups to settle down in Hesekê's Gweiran (kr: Xiwêran) neighbourhood and started to make preparations there.
According to the information obtained, the preparation period for the attack took 7-8 months. US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated on Saturday that “Attacking the detention facility was a top ISIS priority for more than a year”. Because, among the inmates in this prison are high-ranking ISIS leaders.
SLEEPER CELLS SENT BY TURKEY
These former ISIS members who continued to be active under the auspices of the Turkish state went undercover by working in different jobs as sleeper cells in Gweiran. Ammunition and weapons were delivered to these groups through different people. According to a SDF statement, 200 ISIS members moved from Serêkaniyê, Girê Spî (ar: Tal Abyad) and Ramadî into the Gweiran neighbourhood and the vicinity of the prison.
MOST OF THE INMATES IN PRISON ARE FOREIGNERS
Some of the inmates in the prison made similar preparations before the attack. ISIS prisoners who had attempted to ‘revolt’ several times before were ready to take action when the attack started. There are more than 5 thousand ISIS prisoners, mostly foreigners, who call themselves ‘muhajir’ (“migrants”, used for foreign ISIS fighters) in this prison. In other words, most of them are people who directly acted as the military force of ISIS.
A bomb-laden vehicle was first detonated at Gweiran Junction. The bomb-laden vehicle was detonated near 3-4 oil tankers at the junction, which increased the intensity of the explosion. Thus, the main road which the security forces could use to intervene in the prison was blocked. Simultaneously, another bomb-laden vehicle was detonated in the area where the prison gate and Erka Xweparastinê (Self-Defense Forces) building are located to prevent any intervention from there.
SOME CIVILIANS CAPTURED
Following the explosions, the sleeper cells previously settled in the neighbourhoods stepped into action and in some places, civilians were taken captive. However, the attackers did not target the gate of the prison. They started the attack from through the neighbourhood. The sleeper cells entered the prison after destroying its walls with an earth mover. Then they began to distribute weapons to the ISIS prisoners inside, and some of the prison staff were taken captive.
Following the attack, the Internal Security Forces and the SDF took action and tried to protect civilians as the first priority. They thus blockaded the neighbourhoods of Gweiran and Heyî Zihur. While the attackers were prevented from expanding to a larger area, civilians were evacuated safely.
More than 200 ISIS members, 150 of whom were from sleeper cells, were killed and hundreds of fugitive ISIS members were captured during the five days of conflict and operations. The SDF and Internal Security Forces blockaded the prison and killed most of the sleeper cells in the neighbourhoods through local spot operations.
SIGNS POINT TO TURKISH AND DAMASCUS GOVERNMENTS
Details of the massive ISIS attack in Hesekê will continue to emerge as the operation proceeds, but the main question is who masterminded the attack. All initial findings point to the involvement of the Turkish state and the Syrian regime.
According to information obtained, this attack was originally set to be carried out last October-November. At that time, the Turkish state was preparing a new invasion attack against North and East Syria together with the US and Russia on one hand, and was also building up military forces in the region on the other. The Turkish President met with US President Biden in October, and then with Russian President Putin. However, he could not obtain consent for a new occupation.
SET TO ATTACK TWO MONTHS BEFORE
During this period when the Turkish state was seeking permission for the invasion, the SDF carried out a series of important operations and captured some of the ISIS sleeper cells in Hesekê and Raqqa. An arrested ISIS leader admitted that their target was Hesekê Prison. However, their plan failed when these cells were brought down.
ISIS AND TURKISH ARMY ATTACKED SIMULTANEOUSLY
Yet, the plan continued, albeit belatedly, and was put into action on January 20. With the start of the attack in Hesekê, the Turkish army and its mercenaries also stepped into action. The attacks of the Turkish army and its mercenaries on the Zirgan, Tel Tamer and Ain Issa started simultaneously with the ISIS attack against the prison in Hesekê.
The Turkish state, which mobilized ISIS from within, built up its military forces on the line of Zirgan, Tel Tamer and Ain Issa and launched airstrikes and ground attacks. In particular, the Turkish military build-up in the north of Tell Tamer was kept ready to help the ISIS attack in Hesekê.
SYRIAN GOVERNMENT WAS ALSO INVOLVED
Some of the initial findings also point to the Syrian government in Damascus. The extraordinary military activities of the Syrian regime forces in Hesekê before the attack and the smear campaign against the North-East Administration and the SDF through the pro-government media recalls the recent rapprochement between Turkish (MIT) and Syrian (Mukhabarat) intelligence services.
On December 30, Turkish media reported that Turkey’s MIT and Syria’s Mukhabarat held talks in Aqaba, Jordan. During the meeting, Turkish and Syrian officials debated over "joint operations in North-East Syria", "a Turkish military operation at a depth of 35 kilometers by revising the Adana agreement", "the uprising of the tribes in Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Hesekê", "release of the detainees in prisons" and "reconstruction of Aleppo". It was claimed that Russia and Syria leaned towards the Turkish requests.
17TH ASTANA MEETING
One week before this news, the joint declaration of the 17th Astana meeting between Russia, Iran and Turkey on December 22, 2021, said that the parties agreed "to oppose separatist activities that threaten the national security of neighboring countries in the east of the Euphrates" and "illegal seizure of Syrian oil revenues". These statements, expressed in a diplomatic language, revealed the plots against the region.
WOULD TURKEY ATTACK FROM THE NORTH, SYRIA FROM THE SOUTH?
It is claimed that had the attack in Hesekê become successful and ISIS carried out a major massacre, the Turkish state would have launched a military offensive from the north of Tell Tamer and the Syrian regime from the regions such as Tabqa, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. This claim is in line with the contents of the meeting between MIT and Mukhabarat.
ALL FINDINGS POINT TO TURKISH AND SYRIAN GOVERNMENTS
Most of the data obtained so far (NATO weapons with Turkish serial number used by ISIS members, the records of the phone calls of the ISIS members in prisons with Turkey, the confessions of the captured ISIS members and their attempt to go to Serêkaniyê, the newly issued Syrian IDs of the sleeper cells, the mobility of the Syrian regime in the region) show that the Turkish and Syrian governments are behind this rebellion-escape-massacre plot of ISIS. It is certain that more information, findings and documents over this subject will be revealed and published in the coming days.
SDF AVOIDS DIRTY PLANS
The SDF frustrated the attack in Hesekê to a large extent, dealing a heavy blow not only to ISIS once again, but also to the Turkish and Syrian governments, which helped the ISIS attack behind the scenes. Although the main target of this plan is the North-East Administration and SDF, it is obvious that another target is the US and the International Coalition.
ATTACKS LIKELY TO CONTINUE
The North and East Syrian Administration and the SDF have repelled numerous organized attacks during the last 11 years of the Syrian civil war and gained a great deal of experience in military terms. However, similar attacks are very likely to continue in the coming period.