Turkey detains two IS suspects over New Year attack plot
ANKARA: Turkish police on Wednesday detained two IS suspects accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack on New Year’s Eve celebrations in the capital Ankara.
The arrests come with European countries on high alert for possible attacks over the New Year, with Belgium detaining two suspected militants and Moscow closing off its iconic Red Square.
Turkish officials said the pair were planning to strike an area in the city centre that is expected to be packed with revellers on the night of December 31.
“They are suspected of being affiliated with the IS and were planning an attack on the New Year in Ankara,” a Turkish official said, asking not to be named.
Turkey has been on high security alert since October 10 when two suicide bombers ripped through a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, killing 103 people in the worst attack in modern Turkey’s history.
According to the private NTV television, counter-terrorism police arrested the pair in the Mamak district, on the outskirts of the capital, which is home to more than five million people.
The two were planning to stage an attack in Ankara’s main Kizilay square, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing the prosecutor’s office.
The two men, identified as MC and AY, 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 October attack in Ankara was blamed on IS militants, 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 IS 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 said.
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 in the southern city of Kahramanmaras and then taken into custody.
Long criticised by its allies for taking too soft a line against militants, 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 in November. — AFP