Hundreds of al-Qaeda recruits have found safe houses in southern Turkey before entering Syria to battle President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, a British newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The hideouts are enabling al-Qaeda to send foreign jihadists to hijack the more “moderate” wing of the rebel Free Syrian Army, The Daily Telegraph reported, citing volunteers who help smuggle the new recruits.
“Every day there are mujahedeen [jidahists] coming here from all different nationalities,” Abu Abdulrahman, a Jordanian volunteer, told the newspaper.
Abu Abdulrahman manages a network of receiving centers in southern Turkey for volunteers wishing to join al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Speaking from an al-Qaeda safe house, Abu Abdulrahman used a Skype account of an intermediary and with volunteers from several countries – including Britain – listening in, the newspaper said.
Abu Abdulrahman gave further details on the “procedures” that are undertaken when a volunteer reaches Turkey and joins al-Qaeda.
“If you want to enter, you have to be a proper Muslim. We have to research you to make sure you are not a spy. If you are foreign, someone in our network needs to recommend you,” he said.
Many of the hideouts are apartments rented under false names in Turkish villages bordering Syria.
According to the newspaper, “the recruits sometimes wait for weeks until they are cleared to cross the border.”