Turkey arrests ISIL suspects as detention drive continues

The suspects were allegedly planning to carry out attacks on synagogues and churches.

Turkey has announced it has detained dozens of people suspected of having ties to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.

At least 29 suspects were arrested in “Operation Heroes-37” on Friday, news agencies reported. The detentions come amid a drive by Turkey’s security forces ahead of New Year festivities, although some also view it as part of a political push ahead of local elections.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on social media platform X that the detentions had thwarted planned attacks on churches and synagogues in Istanbul.

According to Turkish state news agency Anadolu, the suspects included three alleged senior ISIL fighters. It added that plans also included an attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Ankara.

Despite the group having been largely defeated, some ISIL fighters remain in hiding in remote areas of Syria and Iraq, from which they continue to carry out attacks.

Turkey continues to be targeted and has been hit by a string of deadly bombings. An attack in Istanbul on January 1, 2017 killed 39 people in a nightclub during New Year celebrations.

The detentions come a week after police rounded up 304 suspected ISIL fighters in simultaneous raids across Turkey, in what is seen as a security sweep leading up to the New Year festivities.

Turkish authorities have also ramped up operations against Kurdish fighters in recent weeks, after they detonated a bomb near government buildings in Ankara on October 1.

“For the peace, unity and solidarity of our nation, we will not tolerate any terrorists,” Yerlikaya said on X.

“We will continue our fight uninterruptedly with the superior efforts of our security forces.”

However, there is also suspicion that the drive may also be influenced by upcoming local elections in March.

Analysts say that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is keen to win back control of Istanbul, Ankara and other major economic hubs that his AK Party has lost.

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