US officials expose major ISIS network in Turkey

US officials expose major ISIS network in Turkey
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It has been brought to light that the head of a major ISIS network has been living in Turkey and has operated to distribute funds and recruit members for the group since 2016.

As US authorities exposed an Islamic State (ISIS) network that operates in Turkey to enable the group's recruitment and financial transfers, Turkish officials took steps to freeze the assets of the network's members.

"Today, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated critical nodes of a key financial facilitation network of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which included four individuals and two entities in Turkey, who have enabled the terrorist group's recruitment and financial transfers to and from Iraq and Syria," a US Treasury Department communication said on Thursday, adding:

"This network played a key role in money management, transfer, and distribution for ISIS in the region. Concurrently, the Turkish Ministry of Treasury and Finance, together with the Ministry of Interior, have implemented an asset freeze against members of this network."

The Treasury Department's communication reveals that an Iraqi national named Brukan al-Khatuni has been living and operating in Turkey since 2016, when he joined an "ISIS recruitment cell," which was tasked with "spreading the ideology of ISIS's previous leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi."

In 2018, Brukan al-Khatuni assumed an important role in managing ISIS financing in Turkey, and that year ISIS transferred millions of dollars to him, who in turn managed money transfers outside the banking system (through "hawala offices") and played roles in ISIS money management, transfer, and distribution.

Turkey-based Sham Express, a company founded in 2020 by Brukan al-Khatuni, has also been used by ISIS-affiliated individuals to transfer funds for the group, the communication noted. Particularly, ISIS financial facilitator Lu'ay Jasim Hammadi al-Juburi used Sham Express to transfer money on behalf of ISIS between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.

Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the "financial assets of a network linked to ISIS" has been frozen.

It was noted in the statement that the decision to freeze the assets were "synchronically" taken by Turkish and US authorities.