Turkey arrests 2 IS suspects, foils New Year’s bombing plot

Nationality of detainees not disclosed; would-be terrorists planned to target city center

Illustrative photo of Turkish soldiers in southeastern Turkey, June 15, 2015 (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Illustrative photo of Turkish soldiers in southeastern Turkey, June 15, 2015 (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) — Turkish police on Wednesday detained two Islamic State suspects accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack on New Year’s Eve celebrations in the capital Ankara.

Officials said the pair, whose nationality was not disclosed, were planning to strike an area in the center of the city that is expected to be packed with revelers on the night of December 31.

“They are suspected of being affiliated with the Islamic State and were planning an attack on the New Year in Ankara,” a Turkish official told AFP said, asking not to be named.

Turkey is on a high security alert after 103 people were killed on October 10 when two suicide bombers ripped through a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, the worst attack in modern Turkey’s history.

Counter-terror police arrested the pair in the Mamak district in the outskirts of the capital, private NTV television reported.

The two were planning to stage an attack in Ankara’s main Kizilay square, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported, citing the prosecutor’s office.

The two men, identified as M.C. and A.Y., had had already carried out surveillance on potential targets, according to the Ankara governor’s office.

They had planned to strike two separate spots in Kizilay — one outside a big shopping mall and the second in a street packed with pubs.

Police also confiscated one suicide bomb vest, one bomb mechanism with ball bearings and one rucksack with bomb-making materials, the governor’s office said.

The October attack in Ankara was blamed on IS jihadists, like two other deadly strikes in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast earlier in the summer.

In June, four people were killed in an attack on a rally of the main pro-Kurdish party in Diyarbakir while in July, 33 people were killed in a suicide bombing against activists in the town of Suruc on the Syrian border.

Turkish authorities have over the past few months cracked down on the Islamic State group’s so-called “sleeper cells” throughout the country.

“Turkey is a target of terror because it is on the frontline in the fight against IS,” the Turkish official told AFP.

Earlier this month, police arrested an alleged member of the IS group suspected of planning a suicide attack on the US consulate in Istanbul.

The Syrian national was detained at the bus station in the southern city of Kahramanmaras and then remanded in custody.

Long criticized by its allies for taking too soft a line against jihadists, Turkey is taking firmer action against the IS group on the border with Syria after being shaken by attacks on its soil and the Paris assaults.

Turkey has vehemently rejected accusations of failing to properly police the 911-kilometre (566-mile) border, saying its sheer length makes it impossible to block off entirely.

Ankara has called for better intelligence sharing from its allies — a complaint also brought up by its Western partners.

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