Turkish police have detained hundreds of suspected ISIL members in nationwide raids, according to state media, in the biggest roundup to target the armed group in Turkey. More than 400 suspects, most of them foreign nationals, were arrested during operations in at least 18 provinces, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported.
At least 60 people were held in the capital, Ankara, while 150 were arrested in Sanliurfa in the southeast and a further 47 in the nearby city of Gaziantep close to the Syrian border. In the Aegean province of Izmir, security forces held at least nine suspected ISIL members who were allegedly preparing for an attack.
Another 18 people were arrested in Istanbul and the neighbouring province of Kocaeli on suspicion of planning attacks. Fourteen foreigners, including 10 children, were due to be deported. “This is the largest coordinated and simultaneous raids that Turkey has taken out on what it says ‘suspected members of ISIL’ across the country,” Al Jazeera journalist Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Gaziantep, confirmed.
“From what we understand, all of these raids took place around the same time at dawn on Sunday,” she continued, adding that the operation signalled Turkey’s clear intentions to give a “message that it is clamping down” on the armed group. “Turkey has suffered multiple attacks either claimed by ISIL or inspired by it,” Dekker said.
The Turkish government holds ISIL, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and is also known as ISIS, responsible for several attacks in Turkey. Most recently, ISIL claimed responsibility for a New Year’s Eve attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul in which 39 people were killed. Police detained the suspected attacker, Abdulgadir Masharipov, an Uzbek national, on January 16 and authorities say he has confessed to the massacre.
Turkish troops are also engaged in battles against ISIL fighters in the Syrian town of al-Bab, in the fiercest fighting yet of Ankara’s military’s campaign inside Syria that started in August.