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ISIL members smuggled into Turkey from Idlib for $150, journalist claims

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A Turkish columnist has claimed that two Russian nationals captured by Turkish soldiers on the southern Hatay border while trying to enter the country illegally from Syria earlier this month were members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who were smuggled into Turkey by jihadists in Idlib for $150, local media reported on Thursday.

İsmail Saymaz said on Thursday in his column on the Halk TV news website that Diana İsabekova and Uma Manukova, two Russian women who were captured in the Altınözü district of Hatay on September 9 and are currently awaiting extradition, were ISIL members who were smuggled into Turkey for $150.

According to Saymaz, Manukova, who was born in Dagestan in 1977, came to Turkey in 2015 with the aim of entering Syria so that she could “freely practice her religion in the Islamic State.”

After being welcomed by an ISIL member at the airport in İstanbul, Manukova spent five days in a safe house before she was brought to the border city of Gaziantep, and she was able to enter Syria days later. Manukova married a Russian ISIL member named Danil Abdullaev in January 2016 and had a son named Mücahid, the columnist said.

In 2019, Manukova decided to surrender to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and left her husband. She was kept in a camp until September 1, 2020, when she managed to escape, hiding in a water tanker, to Idlib, where she found smugglers who could facilitate her illegal entry into Turkey, Saymaz added.

“We decided to enter Turkey. I gave $150 to the smugglers. … One of them took us to the border after questioning us. Turkish soldiers caught us while entering Turkey,” the columnist quoted Manukova as saying, referring to herself, her son and İsabekova.

Saymaz also claimed that Manukova was lying when she said in her statement that she received no religious or military training during the time she spent as an ISIL member and that she didn’t know anything about the militant group’s leaders and members, financial structure, activities or cells in Turkey.

“We must withdraw from Idlib without damaging our national dignity because our interests … require us to do so. Simultaneously, we must sit down with [President Bashar al] Assad for the fate of the 4 million Syrian refugees [in Turkey]. Let’s let Syria deal with terrorist threats on its own soil … and [let] Russia deal with its Manukovas,” Saymaz said.

Idlib is home to the last major jihadist and rebel stronghold in northwest Syria, parts of which are jointly patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces.

Turkey declared ISIL a terrorist organization in 2013 and has been attacked by the jihadist group multiple times since then. A total of 315 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in at least 10 suicide bombings, seven bomb blasts and four armed attacks carried out by ISIL in the country.

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