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Ilhami Bali

December 25, 2020 Extremists / /

Born: March 17, 1982;

Place of Birth: Reyhanli, Turkey;

Gender: Male;

Nationality: Turkish;

General Info:
Ilhami Bali (better known by his nom de guerre Abu Bakr or Ebu Bekir), was indicted on charges of masterminding the Islamic State attacks in 2015, met secretly with MIT agents in the Turkish capital of Ankara in 2016.

He was operating in an al-Qaeda cell before joining the al-Nusra Front in the initial years of the conflict in Syria.

Bali’s actions were directed by the MIT, which coordinated clandestine operations within the Islamic State terrorist group for political goals.

Bali stayed in the then-newly built five-star Ankara Sogutozu Anadolu Hotel for three days between May 27 and 29, 2016, courtesy of MIT despite multiple outstanding arrest warrants issued by Turkish courts.

He was protected by MIT agents the entire time and was not allowed to leave his room at the beginning of his stay. His handlers in the hotel were Serhan Albayrak, a contract agent who works on the Syria desk at MIT, and Ahmet Ozcelik, a translator who worked on the Iraq desk.

During his stay Bali had talks with Ilhan Kaya, the MIT station chief in Erbil (who currently leads the special operations desk), and other personnel from the Syria desk. He shaved his beard and wore jeans and a T-shirt to avoid attracting any attention, the note explains.

The investigators also identified his phones, although he changed them several times. According to the note, the following numbers were used by Bali: +90 533 438 10 40, +90 536 886 82 89, +90 545 340 84 82, +90 536 240 01 35, +90 543 223 56 73, +90 506 555 52 66, +90 536 687 78 89, +90 545 658 01 91, +90 537 547 19 14, +90 531 608 23 80;

Also, Bali had been communicating with foreign Islamic State terrorists by phone when they came to Turkey and wanted to cross into Syria to join the Islamic State.

MIT’s links to Bali were also intercepted when intelligence agents were communicating with him on WhatsApp about the kidnapping of Pvt. Sefer Tas from a border garrison on September 1, 2015 after Islamic State clashed with Turkish army guards in a smuggling dispute. A corporal was killed in the clash.

The negotiations took place between Bali and MIT agent Kaya and agent Mutlu Tuka, head of the Syria desk at MIT.

However, Tas and another captive Turkish soldier, Fethi Sahin, were burned alive in Syria on December 22, 2016 when it appeared that MIT could have helped free them using its accumulated capital and assets within the Islamic State.

A Turkish court had previously convicted him – in an investigation predating the 2011 Syrian crisis – on charges of membership in al-Qaeda and sentenced him to three years in prison.

Bali relocated to Syria in 2012. He later moved to Islamic State, which tasked him with serving as the Islamic State border chief (emir) responsible for the smuggling of jihadists and logistical supplies and the transfer to Turkey of wounded Islamic State militants along the Turkish-Syrian border.

Bali planned and directed major terrorist attacks in Turkey that resulted in the death of nearly 200 people.

Three deadly attacks that took place in 2015 and killed 142 people carried the signature of Bali, who was listed as the number one suspect in a suicide bomb attack ― the deadliest in Turkey’s history ― on October 10, 2015 in Ankara.

The explosion killed 105 civilians, including the two suicide bombers, as Islamic State militants targeted NGOs and the supporters of left-wing and pro-Kurdish parties who were holding a peace rally outside the city’s main train station just weeks ahead of the November 1, 2015 snap election.

The Islamic State suicide attack in the town of Suruc on July 21, 2015 that left 33 dead was also planned by Bali, according to Turkish authorities.

The Islamic State chief’s footprints were also traced to a suicide bombing and shootings at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on June 28, 2016 that killed 48 people including the three attackers.

The urgent cable that was dispatched to MIT units across Turkey by the agency’s General Intelligence Directorate on July 4 highlighted a phone intercept that pointed at Bali’s possible role.

The intercept noted that a suspect identified as being among those responsible for the attack was provided logistical support by an Arab man who was connected to Bali. Neither of the two men’s names was mentioned in the information note.

In a phone conversation with Bali, the Arab asked for his help in finding an operative who could speak Arabic, and Bali said he would send such a person to Istanbul to help him out.

According to the intelligence, Bali was responsible for trafficking 33 suicide bomb vests that were discovered during a security operation in Turkey on October 13, 2014. He played a role in an attack that killed one Turkish soldier and wounded another on September 1, 2015 in the border province of Kilis.

He organized the bombing of a Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) election rally on June 5, 2015 in Diyarbakir that left four people dead, and he helped move perpetrator Orhan Gonder, an Islamic State militant, across the border.

Intelligence note also underlines that Bali had been searching for an opportunity to stage a terror attack in Europe in early 2016. He was alleged to be connected to Islamic State attackers in Brussels although no detailed information was provided on the nature of this alleged relationship.

He was also tied to a suicide bombing that took place on Istiklal Street in Istanbul’s major tourist area of Beyoglu on March 19, 2016 and killed five people, two of whom were of dual Israeli-US citizenship.

An Islamic State militant identified only by the code name Marac who was involved in the Istiklal attack as well as an attack on the Gaziantep police station on May 1, 2016 worked under the coordination of Bali.

The note also states that Bali was rewarded for his services and promoted to a higher position in Rakkah and that he had been working on plans to attack the US Embassy and consulates as well as Incirlik Air Base, where the US-led anti-ISIS coalition forces were deployed, using drones.

The 2015 Islamic State attacks that were coordinated by Bali had greatly benefited the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The president, who lost his majority in parliament in the June 2015 general election for the first time in 13 years of rule in Turkey, was able to regain the lost votes in early elections on November 1, 2017.

Between the two elections, major Islamic State attacks masterminded by Bali took place. Turkish voters who defected from Erdogan’s party in June 2015 were intimidated by the terror attacks and returned to the fold to support Erdogan due to security concerns.

Following the October 2015 terrorist attack in Ankara, then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the popularity of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) had increased in the aftermath of the incident.

Appearing on public television, Davutoglu said the government could not arrest suicide bombers until they acted, even though the government had a list of names of potential suicide bombers.

Ousted from the government and made a pariah within the ruling party over a power grab dispute with Erdogan, Davutoglu has been planning to launch his own party. In a recent speech Davutoglu said if he were to reveal what happened between the two elections in 2015 with respect to terrorism, those who criticize him would be ostracized.

“If the books on the fight against terror are opened, people who criticized us won’t be able to show themselves in public,” Davutoglu said on August 23, 2019. It was not clear what he was implying, but the Turkish opposition called on him to reveal what he knows about the period in 2015 that was marred by back-to-back terrorist attacks.

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