Turkey says captures top ISIS leader

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his country’s security forces captured a “senior executive” of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Erdoğan said the man, Bashar Khattab Ghazal al-Sumaidai, was known as Abu Zeyd. He announced the news aboard a flight home from a three-day tour of the Balkans, Turkish media including the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Sumaidai was apprehended in a joint operation between the Istanbul police, the General Directorate of Security and the country’s intelligence services, Erdoğan said. A United Nations Security Council report published in July identified Sumaidai as "one of the senior executives of the (IS) terrorist organisation", he said.

“This terrorist has been in Syria and Istanbul for a long time,” Erdoğan said.

Turkey has faced criticisim for its record on dealing with Islamic extremist groups by some security analysts and politicians, who point to its collaboration with Islamist militant organisations in northern Syria including successors to Al Nusra. Top ISIS figures including leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have either been killed in U.S.-led operations in northern Syria adjacent to the Turkish border.

Sumaidai said during his interrogation that he was a ‘qadi’ of ISIS’s self-styled education and justice ministries, according to Erdoğan.

In May, Turkish officials claimed that police had captured Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, the new leader of ISIS, in Istanbul without firing a single shot. U.S. officials expressed caution at the time and his capture was never formally announced.

Sumaida has been mentioned by the BBC and other media as the possible new leader of ISIS in March.

Erdoğan’s government has supported Islamic groups including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood since it won power in 2002, but says Turkey, like the West, is a victim of ISIS terrorism and it strongly opposes and fights terror no matter who commits it.

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