Turkish police detained two suspected ISIL members believed to be planning suicide attacks during New Year’s celebrations in the capital Ankara.
The two men were arrested on Wednesday in a raid on a suspected ISIL safehouse in the Mamak neighbourhood of the city. Police seized a suicide vest armed with a bomb and an explosive device placed inside a backpack, as well as bomb-making equipment, according to the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office.
In October, two suicide bombers detonated bombs outside Ankara’s main train station as people gathered for a peace rally. The attack killed more than 100 and was Turkey’s deadliest ever. The prosecutor’s office said it was carried out by a local cell of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group.
The two Turkish nationals – identified by their initials MC and AY – were being questioned by anti-terrorism police on Wednesday.
The prosecutor’s office said the men had staked out locations in Ankara.
The state-run Anadolu news agency, quoting unnamed police and judiciary officials, said the would-be attackers were planning to detonate explosives at two locations near bars and a shopping mall near Ankara’s central Kizilay district during celebrations.
“They were caught before they had the opportunity to take action,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Monitored for a month
The private NTV news channel, quoting security sources, said the two had “frequently” moved in and out of Syria and had been monitored for the past month.
More than 30 people were killed in a suicide attack blamed on ISIL in the town of Suruc near Turkey’s border with Syria, targeting pro-Kurdish activists in July.
Earlier this year, Turkey agreed to take a more active role in the US-led battle against ISIL. Turkey opened its military bases to US aircraft to launch air raids on the armed group in Syria, and has reportedly carried out a limited number of strikes on the group itself.
It has also moved to tighten security along its 900km border with Syria in a bid to stem the flow of fighters and resources.