US designation reveals Turkey functions as a hub for ISIS’s financial lifeline

Abdullah Bozkurt/Stockholm

The recent designation by the US Treasury of an Islamic State financier based in Turkey reveals the failure of the repression of terrorist organizations by the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

On Tuesday, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) appointed Muhammad Dandi Adhiguna, (alias Adhiguna Lesmana Dandi), an Indonesian national who lives in Turkey’s central province of Kayseri, as a financial facilitator who helped to move funds for the Islamic State. The designation confirms a trend that ISIS is exploiting the financial system in Turkey to fund its network while authorities are reluctant to crack down on ISIS cells.

Information provided by OFAC shows that ISIS is able to fund its militants and operations in northern Syria, especially in areas controlled by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and its affiliated armed groups. Similar findings were also noted by UN Security Council Sanctions Committee reports which stated that ISIS and al-Qaeda have been successful in raising funds in areas under Turkish jurisdiction.

According to the OFAC designation, Adhiguna, 26, worked closely with Dwi Dahlia Susanti, an Indonesian and Islamic State financial facilitator. Adhiguna helped her not only in financial matters but also in operational methods. In the triangle of Turkey, Indonesia and Syria, the two worked together to provide money to ISIS cells to allow ISIS family members to move in safer areas in Idlib, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa as well as to recruit young men for the ranks of the Islamic State.

Designation by the US Treasury of five people on ISIS links:


The U.S. decision came during the 16th meeting of the Counter ISIS Finance Group (CIFG) of the Global Coalition to Defeat Islamic State, a group of nearly 70 countries and international organizations led by the United States, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

“Today the Treasury took action to expose and disrupt an international facilitation network that has supported ISIS recruitment, including the recruitment of vulnerable children in Syria,” the Undersecretary of the Treasury said. Treasury of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson. “The United States, as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, is committed to preventing ISIS from collecting and moving funds across multiple jurisdictions,” he added.

ISIS sympathizers in more than 40 countries have sent money to ISIS-linked individuals in Syria in what the United States sees as support for ISIS’s future resurgence. The designation identified the al-Hawl displacement camp in northern Syria where ISIS operatives received up to $20,000 a month, with the majority of the funding channeled through Turkey. “ISIS is particularly focused on trafficking children out of IDP camps to recruit them as fighters,” the US noted.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that by appointing them, the Biden administration aims “to expose and disrupt an international IS facilitation network that has funded ISIS recruitment, including children.” vulnerable in Syria”.

An ISIS suicide bomber was pictured on the cover of ISIS magazine Rumiyah to glorify death and promote suicide attacks.

Kayseri, a conservative province in the heart of Turkey where Adhiguna is based, is a stronghold of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by President Erdoğan. The province is a hotbed of radicals, from al-Qaeda to ISIS. Many of those held as suspects in IS or al-Qaeda investigations have been released, leaving only a few to be formally arrested and fewer to be charged and convicted.

Most of ISIS’s successful convictions, already rare in lower courts, have been thrown out by senior judges who appear to be following the Erdoğan government’s lenient guidelines on cracking down on jihadist groups.

Political pressure on judges and prosecutors who have been told to spare jihadists began in 2014, when the Erdoğan government began dismissing judges, prosecutors and police chiefs who investigated radical groups in Turkey.

The sacked officials were accused of links to the Gülen movement, led by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, which has openly criticized Erdoğan’s regime for widespread corruption and Turkish aid and encouragement. to jihadist groups in Syria and Libya.

More than 130,000 civil servants were fired by the government without effective judicial or administrative investigation, including 4,560 judges and prosecutors, and were replaced by pro-Erdoğan, Islamist and neo-nationalist personnel. As a result of the massive purge, Turkey’s judicial and law enforcement authorities have become tools in the hands of President Erdoğan’s Islamist government and its allies.

Turkish President Erdoğan flashes the Rabia sign, a Muslim Brotherhood gesture he borrowed from Egypt, during his speech to the Union of International Democrats.

Thousands of militants, Turkish and foreign, have used Turkish territory to enter Syria with the help of smugglers to fight alongside IS groups there. The Turkish intelligence agency MIT (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı) facilitated their journey, with Kilis, a border province in southeastern Turkey, one of the main crossing points into ISIS-controlled territory. The smugglers were known to have been active in the border area, although Turkish authorities often overlooked their travels in and out of Syria.

There have been a few cases, however, in which ISIS suspects have been arrested and charged with terrorism. But very few have resulted in convictions in lower courts. Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn rare cases of convictions of ISIS terrorism suspects has set an important precedent in Turkey’s criminal justice system. The decision will effectively reduce to zero the chances of an ISIS operative being convicted on terrorism charges in lower courts.

Turkish officials do not disclose the number of successful convictions in IS cases and refuse to answer parliamentary questions asking for such information. Instead, they often throw out numbers on the number of detentions and arrests, which in many cases result in release and acquittal.

Erdoğan announced on October 10, 2019 that there were around 5,500 ISIS terrorists in Turkish prisons, half of whom were foreign nationals. Yet, on October 25, 2019, then Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül told a press conference that there were 1,163 people arrested and convicted by ISIS in prison.

Responding to a parliamentary question on July 21, 2020, Gül said that 1,195 ISIS operatives were in prison either as convicts or as suspects in pre-trial detention. Among them, 791 were foreign nationals, he added. He declined to say how many were actually convicted.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told parliament lawmakers in November 2021 that law enforcement carried out 1,173 operations against ISIS in 2021, detaining 2,438 suspects. Only 487 of them have been officially arrested by the courts. He did not give the number of convictions.

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