ANKARA. — Turkey yesterday arrested more suspected Islamic State (IS) jihadists in a major crackdown on the extremist group ahead of high-security New Year celebrations overshadowed by the first anniversary of an attack that left 39 dead.
Just minutes into 2017, Istanbul was rocked by an attack by an Uzbek gunman acting on behalf of IS who fired indiscriminately on revellers at the Reina nightclub on the Bosphorus. It was another body blow to Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a year of attacks by jihadists and Kurdish rebels as well as a failed coup.
However there has been no major attack in Turkey in 2017 since the Reina murders, and security forces this year appear to be taking every possible precaution to ensure this New Year passes without incident.
In pre-dawn raids yesterday, authorities detained 20 suspected IS members in Istanbul, 15 of them foreigners, who are believed to have spent time in Syria or Iraq, the Dogan news agency said.
Turkish media have said the authorities had already detained some 200 suspected jihadists in recent days — including 75 in Istanbul and Ankara on Friday — fearing they could launch an attack over the New Year.
According to some reports, the government is particularly anxious that IS fighters who left the Syrian city of Raqa after its capture by pro-Kurdish militia this year have flooded back into Turkey.
A total of 37,000 police will be deployed in Istanbul alone on New Year’s night, more than double the number last year, according to Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin. Some 4 000 members of the gendarmerie and coastguard are also being put on duty. — AFP.