ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish authorities have detained 43 people suspected of belonging to Islamic State and of plotting attacks targeting celebrations of Turkey’s national day on Tuesday, police and state media said.
The detentions came two days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed in a raid by U.S. special forces in northwest Syria, near the Turkish border.
The suspects were detained in Istanbul and the northwestern province of Bursa in three separate operations, according to a police statement and the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Three of the suspects who were believed to have been preparing an attack to disrupt Republic Day celebrations in Istanbul, were detained on Tuesday, Anadolu said.
It said anti-terror and intelligence units established that the suspects had been in contact with people who would provide logistic support for the attack.
Anadolu said another 26 suspected Islamic State members were detained in Bursa on Tuesday. It said 12 of them were Syrian nationals and that proceedings were underway to deport them. The other 14 suspects were sent to the police, it added.
Turkish police later said a further 14 suspected jihadists, three of them Turkish nationals, were detained in Istanbul. It said the suspects were planning to attack the celebrations in Istanbul following al-Baghdadi’s death, but did not elaborate.
Turkey has said it shared information with the United States, its NATO ally, ahead of Sunday’s raid in northern Syria and that it is proud to have helped bring “a notorious terrorist to justice”.
On Tuesday Turks were marking the 96th anniversary of the founding of the secular Turkish republic on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
Trump said on Tuesday the U.S. military had also killed the person who would likely have succeeded al-Baghdadi as the leader of Islamic State, without identifying him.
Islamic State has carried out atrocities against religious minorities and attacks on five continents in the name of an ultra-fanatic version of Islam that has horrified mainstream Muslims.
The death of Baghdadi is a severe blow to the group, which has been in disarray and has no declared successor as leader yet. But it has in the past proved resilient, continuing to mount or inspire attacks in the region and beyond despite losing most of its territory in recent years.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Gareth Jones)