ISTANBUL — Several hundred people suspected of being Islamic State operatives were arrested in a series of coordinated raids by the Turkish police on Sunday, in what constitutes one of Turkey’s largest operations against the jihadist group on the country’s soil.
Nearly 450 suspects were rounded up in the early hours of Sunday,according to the Anadolu Agency, a state-run news wire. Independent television reports later said 690 suspects had been held by the end of the day. At least one attack was said to have been thwarted in the process, according to Anadolu.
The operation was distinct from crackdowns on those accused of being supporters of last summer’s failed coup, and on members of the country’s political opposition. More than 130,000 Turks have been arrested or fired from government posts in the past seven months as part of those efforts, according to government data.
Sunday’s raids were the latest salvo in a long-running conflict between Turkey and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In the early years of the Syrian revolution, Turkey was accused of turning a blind eye to the movement of thousands of Islamic State fighters over its southern border with Syria, where they joined the war against the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. But the Turkish Army is now in direct conflict with the group in northern Syria, where Turkey is leading attempts to expel the Islamic State from the strategically important city of Al Bab.
Turkey has suffered numerous attacks linked to the Islamic State since 2014, most recently in the early hours of this year, when a fighter killed 39 people at a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. The group is also believed to be behind an October 2015 bombing in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, that killed more than 100 people, and was accused of organizing the killing of 45 people at Istanbul’s main airport last summer.
This weekend’s raids occurred across an unusually wide area, with suspects seized in 18 provinces. The move is a change in strategy by the Turkish police, who have usually detained only small numbers of jihadists at a time, said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat, and an analyst who focuses on Turkey for Carnegie Europe, a think tank.Read More...
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