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The Man Who Could Have Stopped the Islamic State

Brian Fishman

The phone in the Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Directorate of the police headquarters in Gaziantep, a southern Turkish city, rang at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2006. The caller did not provide a name, and records oddly do not indicate the person’s gender. But the caller did offer a well-informed tip. Several Iranian nationals were traveling through Gaziantep to Kilis, a Turkish town on the Syrian border. The Iranians were using forged passports, the caller explained, and they were traveling in a vehicle with the license plate 79 M 0064.

Gaziantep did not penetrate the global consciousness for five years, after the Syrian civil war began. At that point, the city became a hub for all manner of men and women drawn to catastrophes — foreign jihadis, spies, journalists, and aid workers. For many jihadis traveling to join the Islamic State, Gaziantep is one of the last stops before they enter the “caliphate.”


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