Turkey captures IS suspects on Syria border: ministry

Turkey captures IS suspects on Syria border: ministry
Troops captured four Islamic State (IS) suspects in a Turkish town on the Syrian border while they were attempting to cross the frontier illegally, the defence ministry announced on Saturday.

3 min read
02 February, 2019
IS captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014 [Getty]
Four Islamic State (IS) suspects were captured by Turkish forces in a Turkish town on the Syrian border while attempting to cross the frontier illegally, the defence ministry announced on Saturday.

Border units from the Turkish armed forces captured the four "Daesh terrorists" on Friday in the Akcakale district of Sanliurfa in southeast Turkey, the ministry said on its official Twitter account, using an Arabic acronym for IS. 

One of the suspects, identified as Feride Samur, was being sought with a red notice arrest warrant, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. 

IS jihadists are blamed in Turkey for a spate of terror attacks including a 2015 bombing on a peace rally in the capital Ankara's train station that claimed 100 lives. 

Turkey has boosted security at its border crossings to prevent any infiltrations and allowed a US-led international coalition to launch air raids on the group's bases in Syria from its soil.

Turkey has already captured large parts of northwest Syria, following military campaigns against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Islamic State group.

On Tuesday Turkey said that preparations for a planned offensive into Syria were complete, with Ankara waiting for an American withdrawal before its tanks roll into the north of the war-torn country.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the military is ready at any time for a new campaign against Kurdish fighters east of the River Euphrates and other parts of Syria.

"When the time comes, the necessary actions will be taken both in Manbij and east of the Euphrates," Akar said 

The US said it would withdraw its forces from Syria soon, after aiding the Syrian Democratic Forces - which includes a large YPG contingent - in their battle against the Islamic State group.

With IS close to defeat on the battlefield, the Kurdish militias fear the US will completely disengage from Syria, leaving them at the mercy of the huge Turkish military.

President Donald Trump announced in December that US troops would soon withdraw from Syria, with Ankara eager to crush the strong Kurdish military presence that has built-up over the border since the start the 2011 Syrian war.

Ankara officials have met senior Russian diplomats to strike an agreement on Turkish intervention, but Moscow appears to be resisting such an initiative and insist that the Syrian regime take control of the Kurdish-occupied territories in the north.

Turkey has also been frustrated with signs that Trump's announcement of a US pull-out from Syria was premature, and the withdrawal of American troops could take longer than expected.

The announcement by Akar on Tuesday would be one way of pressuring Washington to commit to the promise by the White House for a complete withdrawal from Syria.

But a US security chief cautioned on Tuesday that IS remains a potent threat, despite being close to defeat on the battlefield.

The Islamic State group's last territories in Syria will fall within weeks, the US defence secretary said, as the militants fight on to the last hamlets under their control. 

"I'd say 99.5 percent plus of the [IS]-controlled territory has been returned to the Syrians. Within a couple of weeks, it’ll be 100 percent," Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said.

IS have continued to launch counter-attacks and bombings on US and SDF forces in Syria and are feared to be operating sleeper cells in liberated areas.

IS declared the establishment of a "caliphate" in 2014, occupying huge swathes of land in Syria and Iraq.

The group lost almost all of its territories following a US-led assault on their strongholds, with the urban centres of Mosul and Raqqa falling after a bloody stand-off by the militants.

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