Turkey Detains 170 With ISIS Links Ahead of New Year Celebrations

December 31, 2019 Updated: December 31, 2019

Police in Turkey arrested at least 170 people suspected to have links with the ISIS terrorist group, ahead of New Year celebrations, according to state-run media reports.

Thirty-three foreign nationals from Syria, Iraq, and Morocco were detained in Ankara and 24, including four foreign nationals, were detained in Istanbul by anti-terrorism police and the national intelligence agency in a joint operation, the Anadolu Agency said on Monday.

Police also arrested 22 others in a simultaneous, pre-dawn raid in the city of Batman, southeast Turkey. And in Adana, Kayseri, Samsun, and Bursa, police conducted raids that led to the arrests of 45 suspects, including six foreign nationals.

Police are still looking for 17 other suspects, the report said.

On Tuesday, eight more ISIS suspects were arrested in Izmir province, reported the Anadolu Agency. Seven of them are Syrian nationals and one was carrying a Lebanese and German passport.

Also on Tuesday, Turkish police detained five other suspects who were allegedly planning to carry out attacks in the capital of Ankara, where crowds of people are expected to be celebrating New Years, according to the state-run news agency. They were arrested in early morning raids on their homes and all are Iraqi nationals.

Meanwhile, Istanbul Gov. Ali Yerlikaya said more than 44,000 police and 7,000 gendarmerie officers would be on duty in the city of some 15 million people on Tuesday, New Years Eve.

Around 18,000 officers would be deployed in Ankara, the private DHA news agency reported.

Turkey recognized ISIS as a terrorist group in 2013. ISIS terrorists killed 300 people in Turkey in a series of attacks in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack at an Istanbul nightclub in the early hours of New Years Day. The attack killed 39 people, most of them foreigners.

In 2019, Turkey deported a total of 778 ISIS terrorists back to their home countries, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Sunday.

Turkey has stepped up its efforts to expel foreign fighters back to their countries of origin in recent months, accusing many European countries of not taking responsibility for their nationals and saying their Turkey was “not a hotel” for foreign terrorists.

In a New Year statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the country has repelled terrorist attacks.

“We haven’t yielded to schemes to stir up the streets, bloody attacks by terrorist organizations, insidious coup attempts by traitors within,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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