Turkey detains 20 IS suspects before G20 summit

Turkey detains 20 IS suspects before G20 summit
Turkish police detained 20 suspected Islamic State group militants in Antalya on Friday, days ahead of a summit of world leaders in the city
3 min read
06 November, 2015
The Mediterranean resort of Antalya will host the G20 summit later this month [Getty]

Turkish police detained 20 Islamic State suspects in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya on Friday, barely 10 days ahead of a G20 summit there being attended by world leaders, local media reported.

Counter-terrorism police launched simultaneous raids in Antalya and surrounding neighbourhoods, the private Dogan news agency reported, adding that the suspects were "in contact with IS militants in Iraq and in Syria".

The government says hundreds of Turks have already joined the extremists in Syria although the actual number could be much higher

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among the G20 leaders attending the Antalya summit on 15-16 November, where the war in Syria and the international fight against the Islamic State group [IS] are set to top the agenda.

Turkey has been on the hunt for IS extremists since twin bombings at a peace rally in Ankara last month that killed 102 people and wounded around 500, the worst such attack in the country's history.

There was no immediate comment from the prime minister's office about the Antalya operation.

Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu had said this week that Ankara was planning further military action against the jihadists in the "coming days", without saying how or where.

In another development, police caught six people, five of them foreigners, attempting to cross into Syria from a Turkish border town to join the ranks of the IS, the local governor's office said.

Adding to concerns about increasing IS infiltration in Turkey, two sisters aged 18 and 20 have been missing since going to an Islamist training camp in Istanbul late last month. Their family has called on the authorities to help, as there are fears they have been recruited by the militants.

The government says hundreds of Turks have already joined the extremists in Syria although the actual number could be much higher.

Policy blowback

Turkey had initially supported Islamist rebels fighting both Syrian Kurds and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad but its policy backfired after the emergence of the IS, which has seized swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

Despite Western criticism, Ankara had long stayed reluctant to take robust action against the jihadists.

But after a deadly bombing on a border town in July, Turkey first launched air strikes against IS targets and then agreed to become a full member of the US-led coalition, allowing the Americans to use a key air base for bombing raids in Syria.

But most of Turkey's firepower was concentrated on Kurdish fighters based in northern Iraq, ending a 2013 truce between Ankara and the rebels.

The opposition in Turkey, including Kurds, still accuse Ankara of colluding with the IS - charges vehemently rejected by the government, which blacklisted the jihadist group as a terrorist organisation in 2013.

The IS group has been blamed for three attacks in Turkey since June and police have rounded up dozens of IS suspects in recent weeks in raids across the country.

Turkish prosecutors said a sleeper cell acting on orders from the jihadists in Syria carried out the massive Ankara attacks in order to disrupt last weekend's crucial election, the second in five months.

There were also fears that a cell was plotting another major atrocity, such as hijacking a plane or a ship.

The latest crackdown comes after Sunday's election, which saw President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] regain the parliamentary majority it lost in June.

Erdogan has vowed to press ahead with operations against all "terrorists" including the IS and the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK].