Turkey nabs 29 suspected terrorists ahead of New Year’s Eve

A year after Israeli Lian Zaher Nasser killed in nightclub attack, Istanbul to deploy more than 40,000 security forces, ban some events

A Turkish special force police officer patrols in front of the Reina nightclub in Istanbul on January 4, 2017, three days after a gunman killed 39 people on New Year's Eve. (AFP/Ozan Kose)
A Turkish special force police officer patrols in front of the Reina nightclub in Istanbul on January 4, 2017, three days after a gunman killed 39 people on New Year's Eve. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Turkish police detained 29 suspected Islamic State group militants in the capital, Ankara, on Friday, some of whom allegedly were preparing to carry out attacks during New Year’s celebrations, the state-run news agency reported.

Some 500 police officers took part in simultaneous raids to detain the suspects, many of them foreign nationals, the Anadolu Agency reported. Police had warrants to detain 17 other suspects.

Materials seized by police during the raids indicated that some of the suspects had staked out locations and made preparations for possible attacks on New Year’s Eve, the report said.

There was no immediate information on the foreigners’ nationalities.

Additionally, Istanbul will deploy more than 40,000 members of the security forces for the night of New Year’s Eve, one year after a deadly attack on a nightclub claimed 39 lives, including one Israeli, its governor said.

Medics and security officials work at the scene after a terror attack at a popular nightclub in Istanbul, January 1, 2017. (IHA via AP)

Istanbul governor Vasip Shain said that 37,000 police and 4,000 members of the gendarmerie and coast guard would be deployed on the night of December 31-January 1 to ensure security.

“We are taking very serious security measures to ensure that our citizens, God willing, see in the New Year in peace and security,” he said, quoted by the Dogan news agency.

He said that entertainment venues had been told to have their own private security officials on hand and if the precautions were inadequate then police would be deployed.

Turkey has suffered a series of deadly attacks blamed on Islamic State terrorists.

Lian Zaher Nasser of Tira, killed in a shooting attack at an Istanbul nightclub on January 1, 2017. (Courtesy)

Of the 39 killed in the Reina attack, 27 were foreigners, including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Morocco who had gone to the club to celebrate New Year. According to the indictment, 79 people were wounded.

One of the victims was 19-year-old Lian Zaher Nasser, from the Arab-Israeli town of Tira.

Her friend Ro’a Mansour, 18, was wounded in the attack.

Celebrations scrapped

After last year’s carnage, the mood is expected to be muted for seeing in 2018 in Istanbul, and there will be no celebrations in key parts of the city that are usually packed with revelers.

The authorities have banned any New Year celebrations in Taksim Square in the heart of the European side of the city, while a similar measure has been imposed for the lively district of Besiktas.

Reina club shooter Abdulkadir Masharipov after being caught by Turkish police in Istanbul, January 16, 2017. (Depo Photos via AP)

The district of Sisli — home to Istanbul’s most upmarket shopping and residential areas — has also scrapped New Year celebrations on security grounds.

The Reina massacre was carried out by a single gunman, Uzbek citizen Abdulkadir Masharipov, who confessed to acting on behalf of IS.

Masharipov escaped the scene, but was captured after a 17-day manhunt and eventually put on trial.

Since the attack, Turkish security forces have stepped up arrests of suspected terrorists, possibly using intelligence that came from capturing Masharipov alive.

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