The Islamist State, the al-Qaeda offshoot that has been terrorizing and executing its way through Syria and Iraq in recent months, may have its sights set on Turkey next, a rare interview with one of its members published Saturday indicated.
The hardline Sunni group, which some American officials have dubbed “a terrorist army,” recently overpowered lightly armed Kurdish units in a blitzkrieg that has threatened the Kurdish region and the American personnel stationed there, causing US military forces to respond with airstrikes — and drawing Washington back into the Iraqi fray.
But now, the Islamic State may have a new target — Turkey.
In an interview with an Islamic State operative in Raqqa, Syria, where the group’s stronghold is located, VICE reporter Medyan Dairieh — who was said by VICE to have gained “unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria,” and who the Turkish Hurriyet daily said was the first journalist to expose the inner workings of IS — was told that the “apostate” Turkish state would have to capitulate to IS’s demands — or be conquered.
These demands are, chiefly, the reopening of a Turkish dam on the Euphrates River, preventing drinking water from reaching neighboring Syria.
The Ataturk Dam, located close to the Turkish-Syrian border, was closed earlier this year.
“I pray to God that the apostate [Turkish] government reconsiders its decisions [to close the dam]. Because of they don’t reconsider it now, we’ll consider it for them by liberating Istanbul,” warned the IS operative in the interview, which was conducted on the banks of the Euphrates, with the operatives’ children splashing about in its waters in the background.
Dairieh, who was embedded with IS for three weeks, then asked the operative if his words were meant as a threat.
“Yes, this is a clear threat, and God willing, if they don’t open it, we’ll open it from Istanbul,” he warned.
Dairieh’s report, which was aired in two parts starting August 7, also showed a Belgian IS member indoctrinating children to kill “all infidels” — including in their native Belgium and Europe — and revive the Islamic Caliphate.
The roots of IS hark back to the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad and the attempt by Western-backed rebel groups to overthrow his Ba’athist regime. As the months passed, the fighting morphed into a brutal civil war, causing the country to descend into chaos and creating a vacuum into which Islamist terror groups — as well as more extreme breakaways such as IS — could step.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.