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memri
December 18, 2019 No.
8421

March 2014 Audio Reportedly Features Phone Call Between Turkish Airlines Executive, Erdoğan Advisor About Turkish Arms Shipments To Nigeria: 'Are They Going To Kill Muslims Or Are They Going To Kill Christians? We Are In Sin Right Now'

On November 26, 2019, Nigerian news outlets reported that Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, spokesman for Nigeria's Defence Headquarters, had said on November 25 that, following a report on the Egyptian television channel Ten.tv, the Nigerian government was investigating claims that the Turkish government is sending weapons to Nigeria-based terrorist organization Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) in March 2015. Nwachukwu said: "The veracity of the claims in the video cannot be ascertained immediately. However, it is a serious national security issue and I believe it is receiving the required attention at the national strategic level."[1]

"Are They Going To Kill Muslims Or Are They Going To Kill Christians?"

The news reports referred to an audio recording uploaded to YouTube in March 2014, apparently featuring a phone call between Mustafa Varank, who is now Turkey's minister of industry and technology and was at that time advisor to then Prime Minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Mehmet Karakaş, who has been revenue and expenditure accounting director at Turkish Airlines since June 2009. Some reports said that the recording was first uploaded by a YouTube user named Başçalan while others said it was uploaded by a user named DLMKHACK Yapılanması.[2]


An audio recording uploaded to YouTube in March 2014 reportedly featured a phone conversation between Mustafa Varank, above, and Mehmet Karakaş.

In the recording, the voice attributed to Varank referred to a "Mr. Hakan." Hakan Fidan has been the director of Turkey's national intelligence organization, the Milli İstihbarat Teşkilat (MİT), since 2010, leaving this position for about four weeks during February-March 2015 before returning to it after. It not clear to whom Varank referred in the recording.[3] The voice attributed to Karakaş said: "I am transporting dozens of materials, they are going to Nigeria right now, okay? [I do not know:] Are they going to kill Muslims or are they going to kill Christians? We are in sin right now, so you know."

Following is a translation of the recording:

Mustafa Varank: "Hello?"

Mehmet Karakaş: "Mustafa salamu alaikum."

Mustafa Varank: "Alaikum assalam brother."

Mehmet Karakaş: "Mustafa I presented you with a subject, do you remember? About this transport matter."

Mustafa Varank: "I have not met with Mr. Hakan yet so I have not been able to get back to you."

Mehmet Karakaş: "But Mustafa, it's very urgent."

Mustafa Varank: "Okay."

Mehmet Karakaş: "I am transporting dozens of materials, they are going to Nigeria right now, okay? [I do not know:] Are they going to kill Muslims or are they going to kill Christians? We are in sin right now, so you know."

Mustafa Varank: "Okay. I will get back to you in a day or two."

Mehmet Karakaş: "Have them give us a contact number, let them do a consultation, okay?"

Mustafa Varank: "Okay, okay."

Mehmet Karakaş: "Okay, thanks."

Turkish Airlines Confirms And Denies Arms Shipments To Nigeria; Opposition MP Asks For Answers; Erdoğan Distances Himself From Mustafa Varank

Turkish Airlines responded to the recording, which was released ahead of the March 30, 2014 local elections in Turkey, saying that while the airline did have the authority to ship weapons, it was not shipping weapons to Nigeria.[4] However, Ahmet Can Akbuğu, director for Turkish Airlines at Nigeria's Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, said that the airline was shipping weapons to the Nigerian Navy under the framework of relevant international laws. Nigerian Navy spokesman Kabiru Aliyu confirmed this.[5]

It was reported on March 20 that Aykan Erdemir, then a member of parliament representing the city of Bursa for the CHP, said: "Where is Turkey today regarding the violence in Nigeria, in terms of the provision of weapons and financing? Is Turkey now a state that carries smuggled weapons and ammunition by illegal means to the Boko Haram terror organization or similiar armed groups in Nigeria?"[6] On March 26, it was reported that Varank, who was described as "never leaving Erdoğan's side," was not invited to a meeting with Erdoğan.[7]

Nigeria Customs Service Intercepts Shipments Of Military Equipment, Including Rifles And Trucks, From Turkey To Nigeria Throughout 2017

On May 24, 2017, it was reported that Nigeria Customs Service spokesman Joseph Atta had said: "Based on information obtained from the intelligence services, officials inspected a ship in Lagos, and as a result found 440 pump-action rifles." Atta said that the ship had set out from Turkey, that one person had been arrested, and an investigation had been started.[8]


Comptroller General Hameed Ali inspecting arms and ammunition imported from Turkey and seized at Tincan Island Port, Lagos, Nigeria (source: Portnews.com.ng).

Following a meeting with Turkey's Ambassador to Nigeria Hakan Çakıl, it was reported on September 23, 2017, that Nigeria's Comptroller General of Customs retired Col. Ibrahim Hameed Ali said that in the eight months leading up to that time, Nigerian customs had intercepted 2,671 weapons illegally imported into Nigeria from Turkey. He said: "Following the increase in the number of arms seizures in recent times, the Customs Area Controller of Tin-Can Port, Comptroller, Yusuf Bashir, ordered a detailed profile of all imports, especially those coming from Turkey. Customs decided to follow profiling approach of 100 percent examination on containers, especially those containers coming from Turkey."[9] In the meeting, Ambassador Çakıl reportedly pledged: "Turkey will not support any dangerous shipment to Nigeria."[10]

A press briefing released on the official website of the Nigeria Customs Service on October 13, 2017, read: "On Wednesday 10th October 2017, based on credible intelligence, operatives of NCS Compliance Team went to two open car stands along Kubwa express-way in the Federal Capital Territory and evacuated 27 Toyota Hilux pick-up vehicles suspected to be smuggled into the Country... We are making progress on investigation in the illegal arms importation. More arrests have been made and the CGC will be on the entourage of Mr. President to Turkey for sideline bilateral meeting with the Turkish Customs Authority. This is with the aim to permanently deal and put an end to such deadly importation coming from Turkey."[11] Both the Nigerian military and terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram regularly use the Toyota HiLux.


A Toyota HiLux used by Boko Haram recovered by the Nigerian military after a battle (source: Doynews.com).[12]

 

[1] Thisdaylive.com/index.php/2019/11/26/fg-investigating-alleged-turkish-support-for-boko-haram-says-dhq, November 26, 2019; Gadopress.com/federal-government-investigating-turkey-over-boko-haram-arms-supply, November 26, 2019; Thewillnigeria.com/news/were-investigating-alleged-turkish-support-for-boko-haram-dhq, November 26, 2019; Youtube.com/watch?v=ipzM5IBojDQ, October 1, 2019.

[2] T24.com.tr/haber/thyde-tasinan-malzeme-nijeryada-kimi-oldurecek-hiristiyanlari-mi,253786, March 19, 2014; Sozcu.com.tr/2014/gundem/mustafa-varank-cizik-yedi-476394, March 26, 2014; Tr.linkedin.com/in/mehmet-karakas-37390915, accessed December 18, 2019.

[3] Youtube.com/watch?v=1nT4-IwEKts, March 18, 2014.

[4] Sozcu.com.tr/2014/gundem/hristiyanlari-mi-oldurecek-muslumanlari-mi-472502, March 18, 2014.

[5] Herald.ng/legally-shipped-arms-nigeria-turkish-airlines-admits-wrongdoing, accessed December 18, 2019.

[6] Sozcu.com.tr/2014/dunya/times-nijeryaya-giden-silahlar-basbakani-yakacak-473325, March 20, 2014.

[7] Sozcu.com.tr/2014/gundem/mustafa-varank-cizik-yedi-476394, March 26, 2014.

[8] Tr.sputniknews.com/afrika/201705241028594607-nijerya-turkiye-gelen-silah-yuklu-gemiye-el-koydu, May 24, 2017.

[9] Thisdaylive.com/index.php/2017/09/23/ncs-unveils-importer-vessel-involved-in-rifles-import-as-cgc-meets-turkish-ambassador, September 23, 2017.

[10] Portnews.com.ng/arms-seizures-turkey-wont-support-any-dangerous-shipment-to-nigeria-ambassador, September 26, 2017.

[11] Customs.gov.ng/?paged=2&error=3, October 13, 2017.

[12] Doynews.com/tags/nigerian-army, accessed December 18, 2019.