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Turkey detains dozens of IS suspects ahead of New Year

State news agency says 33 suspects apprehended in Ankara were from Iraq, Syria and Morocco; police still searching for some 17 others

Illustrative: Turkish police and army cars escort vans and buses returning from Syria, reportedly carrying Islamic State group members and their families, at the border town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, October 18, 2019. (Emrah Gurel/AP)
Illustrative: Turkish police and army cars escort vans and buses returning from Syria, reportedly carrying Islamic State group members and their families, at the border town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, October 18, 2019. (Emrah Gurel/AP)

ANKARA — Police in Turkey detained dozens of people suspected of links to the Islamic State group, the state-run news agency reported Monday, in an apparent sweep against the militant group ahead of New Year celebrations.

At least 33 foreign nationals were detained in the capital Ankara in a joint operation by anti-terrorism police and the national intelligence agency, according to the Anadolu Agency. Police conducted simultaneous, pre-dawn raids in the city of Batman, in southeast Turkey, where 22 suspects were detained, it said in a separate report.

Raids were also conducted in the cities of Adana and Kayseri where 15 people, including six foreign nationals were detained.

Anadolu said the IS suspects apprehended in Ankara were from Iraq, Syria and Morocco. Police were searching for some 17 other suspects, the report said.

The country was hit by a wave of attacks in 2015 and 2016 blamed on IS and Kurdish militants that killed over 300 people.

IS also claimed responsibility for an attack at an Istanbul nightclub during New Year celebrations in the early hours of 2017. The attack killed 39 people, most of them foreigners, including one Israeli woman.

Earlier this month, Turkey’s interior ministry announced that it had deported 11 French nationals who are suspected of being members of the Islamic State group.

It didn’t provide details or identify the suspects. The French Foreign Ministry declined to offer details on the returning citizens, which it described in a statement titled “terrorist fighters,” including how many were children.

Turkey has been accused of enabling the influx of thousands of foreign IS sympathizers into Syria over the years. At the height of the extremist group’s power, the Turkish border crossings were the main route for those hoping to join IS in Syria.

Turkey has denied the accusations and later stepped up security at its borders, including by profiling possible IS fighters at airports and building a wall along parts of its porous border.

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