Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that around 600 Turkish nationals are fighting with the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq.
Cavusoglu told Turkey's Kanal7 on November 25 that more than 100 Turkish citizens have been killed fighting with IS.
The Turkish foreign minister said that as part of its attempts to combat IS, Turkey had deported 100 people and denied 7,000 more entry to the country.
Most foreign nationals seeking to travel to Syria to join militant groups, including IS, travel via Turkey. Western nationals who are with IS in Syria have documented their entry to the country via Turkey. A British woman who is currently with IS in Syria claimed on her blog this month that she was initially arrested in Turkey when she tried to cross the border into Syria but was later released after a lawyer apparently affiliated with IS assisted her.
Russia's Islam Today website quoted Cavusoglu as saying that Turkey wanted to "annihilate the ideology of Islamic State."
"To the West and to Arabs we try to explain that IS has nothing to do with Islam. Don't equate Islam with terrorism," he was quoted as saying.
Turkish and Azerbaijani Islamic State militants in Raqqa released a video recently in which one militant, named as Ebuzer Sahin, talks about "slanders" against IS. The group has been named as the "Cundullah Jamaat."
Another Turkish militant, Abu Yusuf al-Turki of Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, was said by the United States to have belonged to the so-called Khorasan Group, an allegedly secret Al-Qaeda cell that was planning attacks on Western targets. However, video and other reports from pro-jihadi groups described Turki not as a shadowy figure but as an elite sniper who ran a sniper training facility in Aleppo province. A Turkey-based pro-Jabhat al-Nusra website, Ummet-i Islam, said that al-Turki had previously fought in Afghanistan.
Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu's comments about Turkish nationals fighting in IS come after Turkey's Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said last week that Turkey has remanded 16 IS militants in custody but that he was not aware of their nationalities. Three alleged IS militants suspected of involvement in an attack in Nigde province are currently on trial in Ankara.
One foreign militant who was fighting in Syria and who is apparently in custody in Turkey is a Daghestani national identified as Abu Banat or Magomed Abdurakhmanov. Abdurakhmanov was arrested in Turkey in 2013, two months after he apparently appeared on a video in which he beheaded a Catholic priest and two other men. Abdurakhmanov's trial began in Turkey in May but there has been little news since. His former associate, another Daghestani named Abu Hanif, is now part of Islamic State in Raqqa and leads a group of predominantly North Caucasian, Russian-speaking militants in that city.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk