The Turkish Republican Prosecutor in Adana has issued a 132-page indictment, alleging that six members of the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham – one Syrian and five Turks – tried to acquire chemicals with the intent to produce the chemical weapon sarin. The Turkish newspaper Radikal reports that the suspects were under surveillance by Turkish police after they received information that the al-Nusra members tried to acquire two government-regulated military-grade chemical substances. 11 people were arrested in their safe house in the city of Adana in southeastern Turkey on May 23, 2013, after they had acquired some of the chemicals.
Initial reports in the media said that the jihadists had been in possession of 2.2 kg Sarin gas when arrested. Five of the detained jihadists were released by Turkish police after interrogation and background checks. Media reports indicates that the five released were Turkish nationals who shortly after being released joined al-Nusra Front in Syria.
In the indictment, the prosecutor names the 35-year-old Syrian-national Hytham Qassap (codenamed “Abu Salah”) as the buyer and leader of the group. The five Turkish-nationals: 52-year-old Halit Usta, 47-year-old Halit Ünalkaya, 50-year-old İbrahim Akça, 43-year-old Bekir Karaoğlan, and 40-year-old Raif Ay, are named as Qassap’s logistics men. The Turkish nationals were released on bail after laboratory results showed that the chemical substance in their possession during arrest had not been sarin. But the prosecutor kept Qassab in detention, since surveillance tapes indicated discussions regarding acquisition of large amounts of chemical substances with the intent to produce sarin. All six jihadists deny the accusations.
Qassab is being charged with “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “attempting to acquire weapons for a terrorist organization.” The other five members are being charged with “attempting to acquire weapons for a terrorist organization.” If guilty, Qassab could receive a 25 year prison sentence. His friends could receive 15 years each.
The prosecutor’s indictment lists the following items as attempted to be acquired by the jihadists: