Turkey to welcome New Year under tight security
New Year’s Eve celebrations will be held across Turkey under tight security, as the Turkish police have detained at least 75 people over suspected links to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the capital Ankara and Istanbul, police sources have said.
Anti-terrorism police conducted a series of dawn raids across Ankara, detaining 29 people, the source said.
The raids came after the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office issued arrest warrants for 46 suspects, the majority of whom were reportedly foreign nationals.
Some of the suspects are believed to have been preparing a terror attack on New Year’s Eve celebrations, the source added.
A manhunt was underway to apprehend the other suspects in Ankara.
Separately, 46 suspects - 43 of them foreign nationals - were detained in Istanbul, a police source said.
The source said the suspects held in Istanbul were also allegedly plotting an attack during the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
A large number of organizational documents and digital tools have been seized in the operations in both cities.
More than 300 people have lost their lives in ISIL-claimed attacks in Turkey, where the terror organization has targeted civilians in suicide bombings as well as rocket and gun attacks.
Turkish security forces have been involved in a long-running campaign to thwart ISIL attacks.
Turkish authorities have recently stepped up security measures ahead of celebrations in the country.
Locals can enter Ankara’s Kızılay Square for the celebrations under tight security control on the eve of the new year, the Ankara Governor’s Office announced.
Before the celebration, the square and the boulevards around it will be closed to traffic for all vehicles and citizens will be passing through checkpoints to join the celebrations.
Residents of Ankara can enter the Tunalı Hilmi Avenue, Kızılay Square, 7th Avenue and Tunisia Street - all of which host the city’s entertainment spots - after being searched.
“Entrances to the streets and areas will be controlled so that celebrations and events are carried out in a healthy manner. By closing all the entrances from Kızılay Square on Dec. 31 evening at 20:00, a controlled entrance will be provided from all four sides and we will create a safe area where our citizens can celebrate the new year in safety,” Ankara Governor Ercan Topaca said.
He also said that a total of 9,744 security personnel, including 7,344 policemen and 2,400 gendarmes in Ankara, will take measures, adding that checkpoints will be placed on roads connecting the city’s districts.
Moreover, the Istanbul police department has prohibited heavy vehicles from being in traffic as part of the security measures.
“The entrances of heavy vehicles such as trucks, lorries and concrete mixers between 08:00 on Dec. 31 and 20:00 on Jan. 1, 2018 in Istanbul’s Sarıyer, Şişli, Beşiktaş, Beyoğlu, Fatih, Bakırköy and Kadıköy districts are forbidden,” it said in a statement.
The Iranian Embassy in Ankara on Dec. 28 warned its citizens to avoid “unnecessary” trips to Turkey and stay away from crowded places during the Christmas holidays, Tasnim News Agency has reported.
“Dear compatriots, given the state of emergency in Turkey and the warnings of security officials in the country, you are requested to avoid making unnecessary travel and attending gatherings [in Turkey],” the Iranian embassy said in a statement.
It also called on citizens to immediately contact the embassy or consulates across the country in case of emergency.
The Istanbul Governor’s Office had said 37,000 police officers and 4,000 gendarmerie officers will be on duty on New Year’s Eve in Istanbul for people to celebrate the night in a “peaceful way.”