Logo of a Turkish militant organization "Grey Wolves"
CAIRO – 11 May 2017: Amid the turbulent situation in Syria, different reports suggested that Turkey supports extremist militants that are involved in Syrian conflicts and that are steadily acquiring more and more clout.
Ankara’s intelligence agency is believed to be recruiting retired military personnel to provide support for armed groups operating in Syria, through the Grey Wolves Brigades. The Grey Wolves is a nationalist armed organization which used to target leftists in the 1970s.
One of the key members of The Grey Wolves, Alparslan Celik, was accused by Russia of the murder of its pilot Oleg Peshkov in October 2015 whose aircraft was shot down by the Turkish air force. Celik was seen in Istanbul in January 2016 while he was attending a funeral service for Ibrahim Kucuk, a Turkish right-wing activist and a prominent member of an organization called "Turkish National Front." Celik appeared in a video clip describing the circumstances of killing Peshkov after targeting his plane flying over Syria’s Latakia.
Russia's ambassador to Turkey, Andrej Karlov, called for Celik's immediate arrest while Turkey denied any relation to the group and Celik.
Established by Turkish Colonel Alparslan Turkes in late 1960s, the Grey Wolves, also known as Ocakları, participated in the violent acts that occurred in Turkey during the late 1970s when its members engaged in guerrilla warfare against leftist activists.
In September 2015, the former Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, laid a wreath of flowers on the grave headstones of Turkes in recognition of his support to the Turkish state. This gesture was interpreted as being symbolic of the group’s close relations with Turkish state institutions.
The Grey Wolves’ ideology is based on the unification of the Turkish people into a single nation stretching from the Balkans to Central Asia and is inspired by the history of the Ottoman Empire that had occupied many states in Asia, Europe, and Africa.
The movement was involved in several terrorist attacks outside Turkey, including the Bangkok bombings that occurred in 2015 which resulted in the killing of 20 people. The movement was also unofficially implicated in the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II, in addition to a series of assassinations of over 700 victims of communist, Kurdish, and Armenian figures.
The Turkish movement has about 1,700 branches, including about 200,000 members and more than 1 million supporters. Since the 1980s, the group has trained thousands of militants who are used to carry out violence acts against any group or party with differing ideologies.
They conducted some terrorist operations in the Syrian territory with the support of the Turkish intelligence service which notably culminated in the murder of the Russian pilot Peshkov in 2015.
During the first Chechen war (1994-1996) and second Chechen war (1999-2000), the Grey Wolves members fought alongside the Chechen separatists against the Russian army. As testament to the political leverage they were starting to acquire, they managed during both wars to supply the Chechens with weapons and ammunition while receiving aid from the Turkish government.