Middle East

Turkish police detain 14 Islamic State suspects before elections

Turkish authorities Friday detained in Ankara 14 suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) group accused of planning an attack on elections this weekend, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

The 14, all foreign nationals, were detained in simultaneous morning raids on their residences in the capital, the news agency said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will seek a new mandate as well as a parliamentary majority for his ruling party in Sunday's polls, which are expected to take place under tight security.

The report said large amounts of material were seized in the raids. But it gave no details on the nature of the attack's timing and location, or the nationality of the suspects.

Turkey was in 2015 and 2016 hit by a string of attacks blamed on IS, as well as Kurdish militants, that claimed hundreds of lives.

The last major attack in Turkey attributed to IS was the New Year massacre by an Uzbek gunman at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul just minutes into 2017. The assault left 39 dead.

The Turkish military has also ramped up air strikes against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, ahead of the elections.

Turkish warplanes reportedly killed 35 PKK fighters in air strikes in the Qandil mountain region on Friday, the Turkish military said.

The PKK, which has fought a decades-old insurgency against the state in southeastern Turkey, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Ankara has also recently stepped up its warnings of a potential ground offensive into the Qandil region, with Erdogan vowing to "drain the terror swamp" in Qandil.

Northern Iraq's Qandil mountains are close to the border between Iran and Iraq.

Turkey has also been in talks with Iraq about the potential offensive, but Erdogan said on Saturday that Ankara will wait until a new government is formed in Baghdad following May's election before continuing talks.

An offensive against the PKK in Qandil would mark Turkey's third cross-border operation since 2016, with the first two targeting Kurdish militia fighters in northern Syria. Turkish forces cleared large stretches of land along Turkey's southeastern border as part of its operations into Syria.

Original Article

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