Tags: Homeland Security | ISIS/Islamic State | Mexico | War on Terrorism | border | terrorism | networks

Experts: Border Crossing by Turks Should Raise Terrorist Alert

By    |   Thursday, 13 November 2014 09:06 AM

The intentions of four Turkish men who crossed the Mexican border into the United States in September is still being debated, but the fact that they got across at all suggests the existence of networks capable of sneaking terrorists into the United States, experts say.

"This incident proves what enforcement experts have always known, and that is there are existing networks in Mexico and Central America that have been set up and cultivated by a variety of terrorist organizations to enable them to move people into the United States illegally," Jessica Vaughn, policy studies director at the center for Immigration Studies, told The Washington Times.

The men arrived in Mexico City in late August after flying in from Istanbul via Paris, and were kept in a safe house until they tried to come across the border on Sept. 3, documents detailing their capture show.

While some in Congress insisted the men are terrorist fighters, Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and other officials said instead that they actually belong to the Kurdish resistance and are among those fighting the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).

"The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground," Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron said.

Further, she said there is "no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross" the border.

However, she refused to comment about the men's status or why it has been proposed they be put on terrorist watch lists. They were being held in a detention center in Pearsall, Texas, as of last month.

Initially, the four said they were members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, known by the acronym DHKP/C, a Marxist insurgency group that it was responsible for a suicide bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey, last year.

However, counterterrorism officials said the men are more likely part of the PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers' Party. Either way, the State Department lists both organizations as terrorist groups.

The men told investigators they wanted to come to the United States to seek political asylum, The Times reports. Two had been denied visas after they could not prove they planned to return to Turkey when their visit was over.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that while the PKK is listed as a terror organization, he doubts the men were part of a plot targeting the United States.

"We’re certainly not at war with the PKK the way we are with al Qaeda,” Schanzer said.

"The possibility that the PKK could be trying to fundraise here in the United States or to be involved in political activity is certainly possible," Schanzer said. "But this seems like a very difficult way of trying to achieve that."

And if the men turn out to be part of the DHKP/C, that group is "Marxist-Leninist," which is not a threat, as "we're not at the peak of the Cold War here anymore," he said.

However, Turkey is being seen by many as a possible path for foreign fighters to either head to Syria and Iraq to join forces with ISIS.

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, in a Time opinion piece this week, said Turkey is not watching passengers carefully, and he is concerned that terrorists "might use refugee groups as a Trojan Horse to get into the West."

Schanzer said that the Istanbul airport has been used by many foreign fighters arriving in the region, and the United States and other countries need to worry about them coming back through the facility.

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The intentions of four Turkish men who crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. in September is still being debated, but the fact that they got across at all suggests networks are capable of sneaking terrorists through, experts say.
border, terrorism, networks, Islamic State, security
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2014-06-13
Thursday, 13 November 2014 09:06 AM
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