ISTANBUL (Panorama.am)—The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the terrorist organization that has been waging war in Syria and now Iraq, is reportedly known to be operating mosques in Istanbul, where Azerbaijani jihadist recruits, among others, are trained for the war in Syria, according to a report by Azerbaijani news agency Haqqin, citing an announcement by one of the leaders of the clerical community of Istanbul, Hasan Kanaalti.
Kanaalti reported that ISIS has taken control of a number of mosques in the neighborhoods of Fatih, Ataşehir, Esenyurt, and Bağcılar. Young people from Azerbaijan undergo training in these mosques, he says, after which they are sent to war in Syria.
“The authorities do nothing and we are going to ensure the security of our community ourselves. We have called for meetings with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but we haven’t received any response from him for more than 10 days,” said Kanaalti.
According to the source, just days ago an attack occurred on Istanbul’s Muhammadi Mosque, where members of the Jafari Muslim community were holding a gathering. The attack was probably carried out by members of ISIS, Kanaalti says.
“We were told that we would not be allowed to pray Azan. One of the neighborhoods in which ISIS is based is Fatih. There the Salafis distribute booklets and fuel anti-Shia aggression. They have created an extended network of their missions in Ataşehir [district in Istanbul] where prior to being sent to Syria young jihadists from Azerbaijan are hosted for a couple of days. The government cannot but know about this,” Kanaalti explained.
As reported by Iranian news agency IRNA, the restraints on political and religious activities in Azerbaijan are one of the main reasons why ISIS considers the country a fertile land for the recruitment of jihadists.
Citizens of Azerbaijan are reportedly fighting among various terrorist groupings in Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. According to the data of Azerbaijani information agency Vesti.az, the total number of Azerbaijani terrorists in these countries is 300. Meanwhile, according to information provided by the Azerbaijani media, about 200 Azerbaijani terrorists have died within the last three years in Syria alone.