Turkey boosts measures to stop ISIL militants
ANTALYA / ISTANBUL
DHA photoTurkey has ramped up its domestic security efforts against suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants with detentions and deportations at the country’s largest airport, after recent deadly suicide bombings and uncovered planned attacks.
Turkish police detained 20 suspects in an operation against ISIL in the southern province of Antalya on Nov. 6, a week before the start of a G-20 summit there that is scheduled to bring together world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The summit in Antalya will be held on Nov. 15-16, with the war in Syria certain to be high on the agenda.
Counterterrorism police launched simultaneous operations in central Antalya, as well as the city’s Alanya and Manavgat districts, early on Nov 6.
Two of the detained suspects were Russian, Anadolu Agency reported, while digital materials were seized. Reports indicated that two of the detained suspects are women.
The militants had reportedly been in touch with ISIL militants in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
The Russian suspects arrived in Antalya from Istanbul and were planning to cross the border into Syria. They also had links to two married Russian suspects, identified only by the initials M.B. and E.A.R., who were detained in an anti-ISIL operation in Antalya on Oct. 29.
The detentions come at a time when the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk is in Ankara to consult with senior Turkish officials on the fight against ISIL, as a follow up to the international meetings in Vienna on Oct 30-31.
Separately, 40 Moroccans and one Syrian have been deported from Istanbul Atatürk Airport after criminal profilers determined that the group could be entering Turkey to cross into Syria in order to join ISIL.
On Nov. 4, criminal profilers hired at Istanbul Atatürk Airport to find foreign fighters wishing to join ISIL designated a group of 45 passengers from Morocco’s Casablanca as “suspicious.”
After interviews with all 45, police authorized the entry of four into Turkey, while the rest, 40 Moroccans and one Syrian, were held for further investigations of possible ISIL ties.
Although none had long beards, a usual profile of ISIL-linked militants, the fact that all were carrying similar amounts of cash raised a red flag among inspectors.
Suspicions were proven right as investigations revealed the Syrian suspect was responsible for guiding 40 Moroccans into Syria. All 40 were deported to their home countries by counterterrorism officials.
Meanwhile, the investigation brought to light a new ISIL policy created to adapt to tighter security controls.
According to reports, the militant jihadist organization has started to advise foreign fighters to travel in modern clothing in order to ensure entry into Turkey without encountering any problems.
Reports allege militants even frequented clubs and entertainment venues in order to deceive security officials.
Police units have been warned about ISIL’s new strategy and they have been asked to be especially careful during public meetings held by left-wing organizations, likely targets for ISIL.
The security forces have been on the hunt for ISIL extremists since the twin bombing on a peace rally in Ankara on Oct. 10 that killed 102 people and wounded around 500, the worst attack of its kind in Turkey’s history.
On July 20, 34 people were also killed in a suicide attack in the southeastern town of Suruç against a group of young people carrying aid and toys to Syria’s war-hit Kobane.
In addition, two Turkish police officers were killed by a suicide bomber during a police raid on an ISIL cell in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Oct. 26. Many ISIL suspects were detained after the attack, as police reports revealed that the cell was planning attacks on political party and newspaper offices.
Turkey has “plans to act militarily against them in the coming days,” Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu said at a conference in Arbil on Nov. 5, one day after a meeting with Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
“You will see. We should all stand together against this danger,” Anadolu Agency quoted Sinirlioğlu as saying.
Turkey, home for more than 2 million Syrian refugees, is also an important route for the flow of foreign militants to join ISIL, as it shares a 900-km border with Syria. The Turkish military has recently started erecting a concrete wall along the border to prevent Islamist militants from crossing its borders.