Foreign terrorists are increasingly going to Turkey through booking tickets on cruise ships to join Takfiri groups in neighboring Syria and Iraq, Interpol has warned.
“Because they know the airports are monitored more closely now, there’s a use of cruise ships to travel to those areas,” Pierre St. Hilaire, the director of counterterrorism at Interpol, said on Thursday.
He added that the international police body has evidence that “the individuals, especially in Europe, are traveling mostly to [the Turkish coastal town of] Izmit and other places to engage in this type of activity.”
Turkey has come under international criticism for allowing thousands of foreign terrorists to join Takfiri groups such as ISIL, which has captured large areas across Iraq and Syria.
“It’s a global threat — 15,000 fighters or more from 81 countries traveling to one specific conflict zone,” St. Hilaire said.
He noted that some 300 militants from China have joined terrorist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Speaking at an Interpol meeting in Monaco this week, Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble confirmed that Turkey was a destination for the terrorists.
The outgoing Interpol chief also called on countries to step up screening at “airports and, more and more, cruise lines” to halt the flow of terrorists to the war-torn countries.
“Originally, our concern about people on cruise ships — dangerous people on cruise ships — really focused on the classic sort of rapist, burglar, or violent criminal,” Noble said.
Interpol has “realized that there are more and more reports that people are using cruise ships in order to get to launch pads, if you will — sort of closer to the conflict zones — of Syria and Iraq,” he noted.
Many European countries have called on Turkey to tighten its border to block the entry of recruits from European countries into Syria. They have expressed concern that home-grown terrorists will return home with skills to carry out terror attacks.
The Takfiri ISIL terrorists currently control parts of eastern Syria and Iraq’s northern and western regions. They have committed heinous crimes and threatened all communities, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and Izadi Kurds, during their advances in Iraq.