Turkey steps up IS arrests ahead of New Year attack anniversary | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 01, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 01, 2018

Turkey steps up IS arrests ahead of New Year attack anniversary

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.

Meanwhile, authorities have either scrapped or banned any New Year celebrations in some of the most popular areas for revellers, including the major hub of Taksim Square, the buzzing area of Besiktas and upscale shopping district of Sisli.

Turkish state news agency Anadolu said that police disguised as lottery ticket and hot chestnut sellers would be deployed around Taksim to ensure security.

Officers also frisked passengers on the city's ferries while heavy goods vehicles are banned from accessing the city centre from yesterday morning to today.

"We are having very serious security measures to ensure that our citizens, God willing, see in the New Year in peace and security," Sahin said.

In the capital Ankara, similar measures have been taken with 9,700 police deployed and roads closed on the way to the central Kizilay Square.

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