Turkey carries out mass detention of ISIL suspects

Ankara has stepped up operations against armed groups since early October.

week in pictures
Flowers are placed outside the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, which was attacked by an ISIL gunman early on New Year's Day in 2017 [File: Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters]

Turkey has arrested hundreds of people suspected of having links to ISIS (ISIL).

The roundup was carried out in operations across 32 provinces, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on Friday. Ankara has ramped up operations against the armed group and Kurdish groups during the war in Gaza and after a bomb exploded near government buildings at the start of October.

The majority of the suspects were arrested in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir, the country’s three biggest cities, Yerlikaya said on the social messaging platform X. The nationalities of the detainees have not been revealed.

The operation was carried out simultaneously across the country, said the minister, who shared footage that showed police entering apartments and buildings and dragging suspects into vehicles.

ISIL originated in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was forged from an alliance between an al-Qaeda offshoot and elements of Iraq’s defeated Baath Party.

At its peak in 2014, its fighters controlled one-third of Iraq and Syria.

But the group lost its grip on the territory after campaigns by US-backed forces in Syria and Iraq as well as Syrian forces backed by Iran, Russia and various paramilitaries.

Although beaten back, some ISIL fighters remain in hiding, mostly in remote areas of Syria and Iraq, from which they continue to carry out attacks.

Turkey continues to be targeted and has been hit by a string of deadly bombings since 2015. One attack in Istanbul on January 1, 2017, killed 39 people in a nightclub.

Ankara has ramped up its crackdown against people in the country with possible links to ISIL ever since. It is assumed that the latest detentions may have been made with one eye on the coming New Year’s celebrations.

In May, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the country’s intelligence forces had killed the suspected leader of ISIL, Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi.

“This individual was neutralised as part of an operation by the Turkish national intelligence organisation in Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue our struggle with terrorist organisations without any discrimination.”

In recent weeks, Turkish authorities have also carried out operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation. The Kurdish fighters claimed responsibility for detonating a bomb near Turkish government buildings in Ankara on October 1.

“For the peace and unity of our people, we will not allow any terrorists to open their eyes,” Yerlikaya said on Friday. “We will continue our battle with the intense efforts of our security forces.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies