Facing blistering internal criticism over its failure to halt a wave of terrorist attacks, the Turkish government on Tuesday set a reward of $14 million for information leading to the arrest of Islamic State suspects in at least four recent suicide bombings.
Turkey’s Interior Ministry updated its list of “wanted terrorists” to include 23 alleged IS members, including five women.
Three of the suspects are believed to be held captive by the YPG, or the People's Protection Units, the main armed service of the de facto Kurdish government in northern Syria.
In the last week, Turkish authorities have conducted several raids in Izmir province in western Turkey, arresting five IS suspects.
On Tuesday, Turkish authorities detained four alleged IS members in the province of Gaziantep near the Syrian border. The men were carrying cellphones, computer tablets, flash drives, guns, ammunition clips and knives, according to the local governor’s office.
Alleged IS recruiter detained
In recent days, Turkish officials said they detained a man known by the nom de guerre of “Sari Murat,” or "Yellow Murat," who, according to the Izmir police, recruited people from Izmir to fight for IS.
According to a pro-Kurdish media agency in Turkey, Murat ran classes for prospective IS recruits. Turkish police said he operated out of a mosque in Izmir where IS recruits received religious training.
Up to 2,000 Turkish nationals are fighting for IS, Turkish analysts say. More than 800 people have been arrested in the last year for having ties to IS, Turkish officials say.
Turkey is reeling from recent terror attacks blamed on IS militants. In all, more than 150 people have died in IS-related terror incidents in the last nine months. Turkey has tightened its borders against IS infiltration and has stepped up arrests of IS suspects.
Turkey’s leaders are facing strong internal pressures from opposition groups who claim they have not done enough to combat IS. In some instances, opponents claim, Ankara’s policies have supported IS aims and left Turkey vulnerable to terror attacks by the group.
“Turkey needs to focus on limiting the social and psychological habitat of ISIS by adopting a preventive stance, rather than a reactive one or carrying out operations against ISIS after it commits terrorist attacks,” Suleyman Ozeren, a terrorism expert, told VOA.
“And to do that, it is of utmost importance to stop ISIS from recruiting new members,” Ozeren said.