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Roundup: Turkey on high alert before New Year's Eve

Xinhua,December 30, 2017 Adjust font size:

ANKARA, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Turkish police have detained 120 suspected Islamic State (IS) militants on Thursday and Friday in a series of raids across the country, including some believed to be planning attacks on New Year's Eve, as the authorities strengthened security measures ahead of the celebrations in big cities.

The mass mobilization of all security forces in Turkey's biggest city Istanbul and capital Ankara, aims to prevent the tragic repeat of last years assault on New Year's eve on a Istanbul renowned nightclub, which left 39 people killed.

Turkish security authorities on Saturday launched the operation "peace and safety" throughout the country with 80,643 security personnel, 33 aircrafts and 70 vessels along with 309 detection dogs.

The security units will be on-duty for 24 hours for citizens to enter into the New Year in a "peaceful and safe environment," said Selami Altinok, the security general directorate head.


In Istanbul, street celebrations which have until been a tradition on the central and busy Taksim square and other popular districts have been cancelled by the authorities because of security concerns.

The Istanbul police also prohibited heavy vehicles, including trucks, lorries and concrete mixers, from being in traffic as part of the security measures.

"We have taken all precautions for our citizens to spend the New Year's Eve in the best way possible," said Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin during a press conference on Thursday.

The governor also said that 37,000 police officers and 4,000 gendarmerie officers will be on duty on New Year's Eve in Istanbul for people to celebrate the night in a "peaceful way."

Seventy-five suspected IS members were arrested on Friday in Istanbul and Ankara, on the second day of sweeping raids across 12 provinces.

The state-run Anadolu agency said some of those arrested on Friday were suspected of planning New Year's Eve attacks in the country.

Xinhua has learned from government sources that several of them were Syrian and Iraqi citizens and others from different Arabic countries.

Several other suspects are still at large and the police is looking to arrest them, according to these sources.


In capital Ankara, the governor's office announced on Friday that locals can enter the city's main Kizilay square for celebrations under tight security control.

The square and the main boulevards around it will be closed to traffic for all vehicles exceptionally on Sunday evening and revelers will be passing through checkpoints, said a statement.

"We will create a safe area where our citizens can celebrate the new year in safety," Ankara Governor Ercan Topaca said.

A total of 9,744 security personnel will take measures that night, including 7,344 policemen and 2,400 gendarmes in Ankara, and checkpoints will be placed on roads connecting the city's districts.

Also in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, 1,900 officers conducted operations as they had arrested nine terror suspects.

One year ago, a lone Uzbek national gunman, Abdulkadir Masharipov, raided the Reina nightclub in Istanbul's Ortakoy district on New Year's Eve with an assault rifle and killed 39 people, most of them visitors from Arab countries, India and Canada.

Masharipov's trial, along with that of 56 other defendants, began in December in Istanbul and was adjourned until March. Prosecutors are seeking 40 life sentences.

Turkey which has a 900-km-long border with Syria intervened in the war in this country last year partly to oust IS from a number of strongholds along its border with its war-torn neighbour.

But as the militants' territory shrinks, Ankara faces a fresh challenge as fighters attempt to flee and return to their home countries in Europe or the Middle East, possibly to orchestrate attacks. Enditem