Turkey-backed jihadists' connection of İstanbul nightclub attack

Although Abdulaziz mentioned the name of Turkey-backed jihadist organization Ahrar al-Sham during his confession, the court translator avoided using it during the translation
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 00:34

The trial of 57 defendants of Reina nightclub massacre of the new year continued on December 12 in İstanbul, Turkey. The defendants are tried for "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, Islamic State membership, killing 39 and attempting to kill 79 people". The attack in question happened on the new year's eve 2017 at the Reina nightclub in İstanbul.


During his defence, Abdulhamid Abdulaziz, one of the defendants, confessed that he went to Syria in 2015 for 15 days to join the ranks of Albdulhamid Han Brigade upon the invitation of one of his Uighur friends for a "training against the torture against the Uighur in China". Abdulaziz noted that he went to Syria from the Reyhanlı district of the southern Hatay province of Turkey. Reyhanlı is located on the Turkey-Syria border, providing a safe passage for the jihadists between two countries. 

Abdulaziz argued in the court that "the training had nothing to do with terrorist act" since the guests were not enrolled in pieces of training.  

Although Abdulaziz mentioned the name of the jihadist organization Ahrar al-Sham during his confession, the court translator avoided using it during the translation. The joint attorneys asked the question one more time, getting the answer from Abdulaziz that the brigade was connected to Ahrar al-Sham. Yet Abdulaziz refrained from giving a detailed information as part of his "right to remain silent".

Turkey's AKP government, through coalition intelligence operations rooms at Antakya and Gaziantep, has for a long time supported both Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham in Syria. Qatar, like Turkey, has been a major backer of Ahrar al-Sham. Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (as it was known then) rallied together under the Jaish al-Fatah "Army of Conquest" banner. 

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency calls Ahrar al-Sham a "local group" or "opponent group". Although the group has a direct role in the bloodiest attacks in Syria, like the Latakia massacre in 2013, killing around 200 people.


Abdulhamid Abdulaziz, made defence in Uighur, confessing that he was imprisoned for 2 years in Urumqi, China following the clashes in 2009 and then came to Turkey in 2013 to reside in Zeytinburnu district of İstanbul. He noted that he met Abdulkadir Masharipov, the Uzbek gunmen of the nightclub attack, and Omar Asım back in prison in China. Abdulaziz said he did not have any contact with Asım till 14 December 2016, when he left his apartment to Asım for a better apartment in another district of İstanbul. The court board reminded that the apartment Abdulaziz left to Asım was mentioned as "the cell house" in the audio record in Asım's cell phone. On December 16, Abdulaziz was taken into custody together with Omar Asım at the bus terminal as they went to pick up a packet upon the request of a Necati Nasrıti. The packet was sent from the Konya province of Turkey and it contained a Sig Sauer firearm.

The judge reminded the defendant Abdulaziz that there are video recordings from Islamic State's television channel and some nasheed anthems, anthems for jihad, in his cell phone. Abdulaziz argued that the nasheed recordings are hymns and that he listened to the Islamic State channel since he "enjoyed the music of a famous Uighur singer."


AKP's municipality in Malatya province hosted the Abdulhamid Han Brigade in an event organized by a nationalist association in 2016.

The commander Omar Abdullah from the brigade also participated in the event that saluted the "resistance" of the Turkmens. The photograph of Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, was covered with a banner in Arabic. The participants chanted Allahuakbar slogans and expressed their determination for "sharia law".

The brigade commander Omar Abdullah is also known with his statements on the Turkish Intelligence Agency trucks case in 2014. Abdullah said the trucks were "carrying humanitarian aid for the Turkmen population devastated in Syria."

The trucks in question contained weapons and ammunition heading towards Syria for the aid of the jihadists and was stopped for a search by the district attorney's office. Turkey's AKP government denied the trucks contained weapons and argued they were carrying "humanitarian aid" to the Turkmens.

The brigade, which is part of Ahrar al-Sham group, is of al-Qaida origin, carrying out jihadist acts in Syria.