WASHINGTON – The death of an American journalist who worked in the Middle East has come under suspicion because she had claimed days before her death that the Turkish intelligence services had threatened her over her coverage of the siege of the Syrian city of Kobani.
Serena Shim, an American citizen of Lebanese origin, was a journalist for Iran’s state-owned Press TV. She was killed in a car crash in the city of Suruc after she reportedly collided with a “heavy vehicle.”
She was in a rental car returning from her assignment when the crash occurred. Neither the “heavy vehicle” nor its driver has been located, although her driver reportedly was arrested.
Just days before her death, she had expressed concerns to colleagues and later on camera that she could be arrested by Turkish officials over her reporting. She disclosed that ISIS jihadists were being smuggled into Turkey and back into Syria in the back of humanitarian aid vehicles.
Suruc was located near the Turkish-Syrian border where most of the international media are assembled to cover the Kobani siege by ISIS.
“She was a wonderful young lady from Tennessee working as a reporter for Press TV in southern Turkey,” Franklin Lamb, an international lawyer and friend of Shim, told WND.
“She was preparing to return to the United States and to her mother,” he said. “She was a lovely young woman, smart, funny, hardworking, very American, open, optimistic. She wanted to help the world and alleviate struggle,” said Lamb.
A statement from Press TV said that Shim leaves behind two children, Ali, age 4, and Ajmal, 2.
“The tragic death of Serena Shim has left pain and sorrow in our hearts,” the statement said. “Her family is calling on the Turkish government to provide answers over the circumstance leading to her death.
“Just a couple of days ago she had been threatened by Turkish intelligence,” Press TV stated.
A few days prior to her death, Shim had spoken on camera of her fears of being arrested. She claimed Turkish intelligence agents had accused her of spying after her report of the alleged smuggling of ISIS militants.
“I’m very surprised at this accusation – I even thought of approaching Turkish intelligence because I have nothing to hide,” Shim said in the broadcast a day before she was killed.
“I am a bit worried, because … Turkey has been labeled by Reporters Without Borders as the largest prison for journalists … so I am frightened about what they might use against me,” she said.
Shim said that she had received images from Islamic jihadists crossing the Turkish border and was one of the few reporters covering the development.
“We were some of the first people on the ground – if not the first people – to get that story of … militants going in through the Turkish border. … I’ve got images of them in World Food Organization trucks. It was very apparent that they were militants by their beards, by the clothes they wore, and they were going in there with NGO trucks,” she said.
As WND has reported, Turkey has been aiding ISIS and has refused to join the U.S.-led coalition against the brutal jihadist army, which has committed atrocities such as beheadings in its takeover of large portions of northern Syria and western and central Iraq.
Informed sources tell WND that Turkey continues to keep open its borders to allow jihadists seeking to join ISIS to cross into Syria. Many of the fighters are from Europe and the United States.
Turkey has been a major gathering point for fighters throughout the world to obtain training and logistical support to join various jihadist groups and the Syrian opposition fighting Shiite-Alawite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey has made clear that its first priority isn’t the elimination of ISIS but to overthrow Assad.
The Turks believe the coalition against ISIS not only will bestow new legitimacy on Assad but will empower the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, as part of the coalition.
The PKK historically has sought a portion of Turkey, northeastern Syria, northern Iraq and northwestern Iraq to form the independent country of Kurdistan.
There are some unconfirmed reports that Turkey has been providing weapons to ISIS to fight the Kurds. One report said that a train from Turkey had carried ammunition and weapons to ISIS to besiege the city of Kobane. However, Ankara hasn’t denied such a claim.
In view of Ankara’s continued war with the PKK, Cemil Bayik, a top PKK commander, said the Turkish government has “eliminated” conditions of a mutually observed 18-month cease-fire. As a consequence, it would “step up its struggle in every area and by all possible means.”
If that were to occur, Ankara could look to ISIS to help eliminate its PKK problem.
“What has emerged is that Turkey is continuing its relations with Daesh and that Turkey will not solve the Kurdish problem in the north,” Bayik told Al-Monitor in an interview.
Daesh is the acronym for ISIS in Arabic.
Bayik said a Turkey “that supports Daesh’s attacks against Kobani, that seeks to depopulate Kobani and lobbies for the establishment of a buffer zone cannot sever its ties with Daesh.”
“Because if it did so, Daesh would expose all of Turkey’s dirty laundry, and document the links between them,” he explained.