ISTANBUL (Reuters) — Turkish police detained 70 people suspected of ties to the Islamic State in nationwide raids early on Monday, ahead of New Year celebrations, state media said two months after the killing of the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Police have rounded up jihadist militants in late December in the last two years, since New Year’s Day in 2017 when a gunman killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub in an attack claimed by the militant group.
Counter-terror police ramped up intelligence activities and carried out the operations in the central provinces of Ankara, Kayseri and Adana, and Batman in the southeast, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
Some 400 police officers took part in a 5 a.m. (0200 GMT) operation in Batman on Monday, detaining 22 people in simultaneous raids on various addresses, also seizing weapons, ammunition and documents, Anadolu said.
It said 30 Iraqi citizens, two Syrians and one Moroccan citizen were detained in Ankara. Nine Iraqi citizens who had operated in Syria and Iraq were detained in Kayseri, while four Syrian and two Iraqi citizens were detained in Adana, it added.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Oct. 27 that Islamic State leader Baghdadi had been killed in a raid by U.S. special forces in northwest Syria, near the Turkish border.
Two days later, Turkish police detained dozens of Islamic State suspects believed to have been plotting attacks targeting celebrations of Turkey’s Republic Day celebrations.
The government has said it will have repatriated most of its Islamic State detainees to their home countries by the end of the year.
Ankara had accused its European allies of being too slow to take back their citizens who traveled to the Middle East to join the Islamic State.
Turkey’s NATO allies have been worried that its October offensive into northeastern Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia could lead to Islamic State suspects and their families escaping from the prisons and camps run by the YPG.
Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer
Image: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)