Turkish authorities announced the mass arrests of hundreds of individuals suspected of working to infiltrate Turkey with the Islamic State, 763 of which were arrested on Sunday alone.
The state-run Anadolu Agency reported Monday that police arrested 820 people throughout the country in the past week, all with ties to Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The official state report added that another 287 people were arrested for ties to the Marxist terrorist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has actively combatted the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The PKK is both a Turkey- and U.S.-designated terrorist organization, whose members have executed multiple attacks in Turkish cities in the past several years.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that among those arrested in raids this past week were ten minors with ties to the Islamic State whom the government is preparing to deport. The newspaper did not specify to which countries the minors would be deported.
Turkish officials also announced the arrest of a woman married to Islamic State suicide bomber Halil İbrahim Durgun, identified as the jihadist responsible for the massacre of over 100 people attending a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara in October 2015. Authorities claim she had information that could have prevented the attack, though the suspect has repeatedly denied having any information that would have led her to believe her husband would commit a suicide bombing.
In addition to anti-Islamic State operations at home, the Turkish government announced that it had “hit 59 Islamic State targets and killed 51 militants in northern Syria” on Saturday, according to a Reuters report. The strikes occurred in the town of al-Bab, 34 miles outside of Aleppo. Al-Bab remains under Islamic State control.
Turkey has assumed an increasingly prominent role in the fight against the Islamic State in Turkey, engaging its troops in battles in Syria and Iraq and joining peace talks between the Syrian government and opposing rebels under the auspices of the government of Russia. Turkey has long been a vocal opponent of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan going so far as to state that Turkish troops were in Syria “to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror.” As Assad remains an ally
As Assad remains an ally to both Russia and Iran, Erdogan later clarified that Turkish troops in Syria were only targeting “terrorist organizations,” which some outlets interpreted as a revocation of his earlier statement, though he clearly referred to Assad as someone who “terrorizes,” if not exactly a “terrorist.”
The deluge of law enforcement news also appeared in Turkish outlets just as Turkey launched a new tourism initiative, capped with a Super Bowl ad for Turkish Airlines starring Morgan Freeman. Terrorist attacks claimed by both the Islamic State and the PKK has significantly damaged Turkey’s tourism industry, as they seem to intend to. The most recent attack
The most recent attack occurred in Istanbul: a massacre at a nightclub frequented by Middle Eastern tourists on New Year’s Eve, a “haram” holiday according to the Islamic State. The number of visitors from abroad in Turkey dropped 30 percent between 2015 and 2016, while the number of bookings to fly into Istanbul dropped 69 percent between June 2016 — when an Islamic State terrorist attacked Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport — and the end of the year.