After several attacks by the Islamic State and Russian-speaking attackers, Turkey is now cracking down on Russian-speaking Muslim communities, suggesting a newly-developed alliance between Russia and Turkey.
Among the incidents was a gun-and-bomb attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport by two suspects from the Russian North Caucasus that killed 45 people last June.
Another attack involved a Uzbeki who has been charged with a gun attack at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day in which 39 people were killed.
Turkish police have raided the homes of Russian-speaking immigrants in Istanbul, detained many and expelled others, according to interviews with Russian Muslims living in the city. At least some of those targeted by Turkish authorities are known to be sympathetic to radical Islamist movements.
The security activity indicates that Russia and Turkey are sharing intelligence, part of a newly-forged alliance that has also seen Moscow and Ankara work together on a peace deal for Syria.
The cooperation comes as a resurgent Russia, already active in Ukraine and keen to boost its diplomatic influence in the Middle East, has been playing a greater role in Syria in the vacuum left by the United States under Barack Obama.
According to the report, Turkey had often been scrutinized by Western allies for being reluctant to stop the flow of foreign fighters crossing its borders to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in the early years of the jihadist group’s rise. However, Turkey argues the suggestion, citing that it needed greater intelligence sharing from its allies in order to intercept jihadists.
Turkey has begun to tighten its borders and reportedly launched a military campaign in Syria last August to move the Islamic State away from Turkish territory.
Traditionally, Turkey was a sanctuary for Muslim migrants fleeing repressive countries, including Russia, dating back to the 19th century. In the aftermath of attacks, however, Turkish security operations have increased, to include raids conducted in areas where foreigners are living, uncovering militants hiding inside those communities.
A Turkish police official told Reuters: “Our operations are not limited to specific parts of Istanbul but all across the city. It is about foreigners without the necessary paperwork, passport or ID. We fight crime wherever it may be.”
Another security official said Moscow has been sharing intelligence lists of potential Islamists with Ankara in recent years, but Turkey has only started actively using the information after recent attacks, as Turkey has become a clear target for jihadists.
Sign up to get breaking news alerts from Dennis Michael Lynch.