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Turkey Detains 124 Suspected of Links to IS Group

FILE - A ferry sails on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 27, 2019.
FILE - A ferry sails on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 27, 2019.

Police in Turkey detained at least 124 people suspected of links to the Islamic State group, the state-run news agency reported Monday, in an apparent sweep against the militant group ahead of New Year celebrations.

At least 33 foreign nationals were detained in the capital Ankara in a joint operation by anti-terrorism police and the national intelligence agency, according to the Anadolu Agency. In Istanbul, police raided 31 houses, detaining 24 suspects, including four foreign nationals.

Police conducted simultaneous, pre-dawn raids in the city of Batman, in southeast Turkey, where 22 suspects were detained, it said in a separate report. Raids were also conducted in the cities of Adana, Kayseri, Samsun and Bursa where 45 people, including six foreign nationals were detained.

Anadolu said the IS suspects apprehended in Ankara were from Iraq, Syria and Morocco. Police were searching for some 17 other suspects, the report said.

The country was hit by a wave of attacks in 2015 and 2016 blamed on IS and Kurdish militants that killed over 300 people.

The IS group also claimed responsibility for an attack at an Istanbul nightclub during New Year celebrations in the early hours of 2017. The attack killed 39 people, most of them foreigners.

Meanwhile, Turkey deported a total of 778 IS or other jihadists back to their home countries in 2019, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Sunday.

Turkey has stepped up its efforts to expel foreign fighters back to their countries of origin in recent months, accusing many European countries of not taking responsibility for their nationals and saying Turkey was "not a hotel" for foreign fighters.