Greek Cypriot Intelligence Agency (KYP) chief Andreas Pentaras has claimed that Muslims in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) could be helping members of the ISIL militant group travel between Europe and Syria, Turkish daily ‘World Bulletin’ reports.
According to Greek Cypriot newspaper ‘Kathimerini’, Pentaras warned that European ISIL fighters could be entering the TRNC by crossing into it from the Greek Cypriot-controlled south.
From there the fighters can travel to Turkey and then later go on to enter its neighbours Syria or Iraq to join the ISIL group, Pentaras said, adding that the KYP was cooperating with other intelligence agencies to prevent this.
Former National Guard Lieutenant General Pentaras also said that the KYP had received intelligence about a group of ISIL sympathisers who were travelling to the Greek Cypriot-controlled south of the island of Cyprus and had blocked their entry before sending them back.
Although he said he has no clear information as to whether or not there are ISIL cells operating in Cyprus, he said that the KYP was working on gathering information on the matter.
However, noting that the TRNC is an unrecognized country in which the rules of the European Union do not apply, in addition to its population being Muslim, Pentaras said it was possible that ISIL cells are present in the North.
In June the Greek Cypriot daily ‘Politis’ claimed that the breakaway Al Qaeda splinter group ISIL was considering establishing an illegal base on the eastern Mediterranean island to counter an alleged training camp set up by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Quoting Russia’s ‘Pravda’ newspaper, the ISIL is believed to be planning to establish a number of bases in the Middle-East and the Caucasus, including in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Cyprus.
Kuwait’s ‘Al-Rai’ newspaper also quoted Western intelligence sources when it reported that ISIL’s rival group Hezbollah had set up bases in Cyprus, adding that the ISIL was planning to also set up bases in Cyprus as a possible option of attack against
Earlier this month, the Greek Cypriot cabinet approved a bill making KYP an independent body in a bid to turn KYP into a “fully independent and professional body able to perform its national security duties adequately,” according to a government statement.
“KYP is to enter a new era. A fully independent body staffed with qualified personnel so it could play its part in dealing with a new, complicated and always evolving international and regional environment that presents our country with threats and challenges,” the statement added.