Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Erdogan trying to win over Libya's Tuaregs

Sunday 29/December/2019 - 04:15 PM
The Reference
Fatma Abdelghani

Nordic Research and Monitoring Network, which works to raise awareness on radical and violent extremist trends, has released a new report, in which is threw light on Turkish attempts to win over Libya's Tuareg tribes.

It says in the report that Islamist Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who helped destabilize Syria by supporting al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, including the al-Nusra Front, has been courting the Tuaregs for some time to create a new proxy group to promote his policies in the Sahel and North Africa regions, a worrying pattern that should raise red flags.

The network notes that a visit to Turkey by ten Tuareg sheikhs and leaders from Libya that started on April 1 was the latest example of a series of contacts that were arranged by operatives of Erdoğan as part of efforts to woo the Tuaregs in recent years.

The goal is to use Tuaregs — who enjoy considerable control over vast swaths of empty desert that are often exploited by kidnappers, drug traffickers and radical Islamists — for advancing the policies of the current Turkish government in general and the personal ambitions of the Turkish president in particular, the network says.

It adds that just like Gaddafi, who once manipulated the Tuaregs for his own policies, influence over the Tuaregs may provide Erdoğan with a new set of tools to blackmail a few African countries, including Libya, Mali, Algeria, and Niger and to hit back at Western allies.

The man who is in charge of the Tuareg file in the Turkish government is Emrullah İşler, the point man who Erdoğan has entrusted with managing Libyan affairs since he was deputy prime minister in the previous government, the network says in its report.

It adds that İşler made several trips to Libya as a special envoy, often meeting with Islamist faction leaders as well as others.

He, it says, was dubbed an apologist for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS or Daesh with its Arabic acronym) when he said ISIL is more humane because at least it does not torture its victims.

He currently serves as chairman of the parliamentary Commission on Education, Youth and Sports. He was one of the planners of the visit of the Tuareg delegation to Turkey.

The Tuaregs’ schedule included meeting with İbrahim Kalın, an Islamist ideologue who works in the palace as Erdoğan’s spokesperson. He was rumored to be the next chief of Turkish intelligence agency MİT. On behalf of his boss, Kalın coordinates the activities of most Islamist groups abroad, often meeting with them in Ankara in order to advise and guide their operations, the network says.

It adds that when the Turkish government hired shadowy lawyer Robert Amsterdam to go after Erdoğan’s main opponent, Fethullah Gülen, and his network of schools, Amsterdam was told to connect with Kalın to coordinate clandestine operations in Africa.

According to verified email leaks from Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak, Kalın was to provide contacts and resources developed by the Turkish government in Africa for the use of Amsterdam and his associates, the network says.

This notorious lawyer even filed a frivolous lawsuit against Gülen in the US based on a complaint from al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkish group Tahsiyeciler, a group that is supported by Erdoğan, only to be tossed out by a US judge, it adds.

It notes that while the official Turkish government contacts with the Tuaregs are handled discreetly by İşler and Kalın, the second track contacts are maintained by a controversial charity group, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH, in Turkish).

The IHH, backed by Erdoğan and working closely with Turkish intelligence, was accused of smuggling arms to jihadist groups in Syria according to United Nations Security Council documents. The network says.

The IHH was also involved in moving supplies to al-Qaeda groups in Syria according to a two-year-long confidential investigation file that was made public in January 2014, it adds.

It notes that the Albayrak emails revealed how the IHH has been acting as a contractor in shipping arms to Libyan factions since 2011.

When the Tuareg delegation landed at İstanbul Atatürk Airport at 11 p.m. on April 1, it was IHH representatives led by member of the board of directors Ahmet Sarıkurt who met the group in the VIP section, the network says.

It adds that among the delegates was Moulay Iqdeedi Amaa Quineedi, president of the Libyan Supreme Tuareg, who has been a participant in tribal reconciliation efforts maintained by a Rome-based NGO called the Ara Pacis Initiative.

Ahmad Matku Neenu Moustafa, Tuareg tribal sheikh, and Aboulbakr Alfaqi Anqidazin Abkidah, chairman of the Tuareg Cultural Assembly, were among the members of the delegation, the network says.