The Cable

Turkey Rounded Up Over 800 Islamic State Suspects in Massive Anti-Terror Op

Turkey tries to push the terror group back on the defensive.


Turkey has suffered numerous attacks at the hands of Islamic State in recent months. But over the weekend, it swung back.

On Monday, the Interior Ministry announced police in 29 Turkish provinces rounded up 820 terrorist suspects over the past week — 763 alone on Sunday. It’s believed to be the country’s largest coordinated anti-terror operation against the Islamic State yet. 

The nationwide raids were meant to head off another deadly terror attack, particularly as Turkey makes military gains in neighboring Syria, the Islamic State’s main nesting ground. Police said the Islamic State was looking for ways to plan a new “sensational attack” with its networks inside Turkey.

It’s a well-founded fear. The Islamic State claimed credit for numerous terror attacks in Turkey in recent months, including a shooting at an Istanbul nightclub New Year’s Eve that killed 39.

Since the terrorist group first emerged as a threat on Turkey’s doorstep, Turkey has detained over 5,000 Islamic State suspects and deported over 3,290 foreign suspects, the pro-government Turkish outlet Daily Sabah reported.

Massive anti-terror raids are good PR, but it’s unclear how effective they really are. On Feb. 1, for example, over 1,000 police carried out shock-and-awe raids across Germany — and came up with only one arrest and 15 suspects caught and later released.

The latest raids in Turkey netted digital materials and documents, but also only four rifles, two handguns, and 372 rounds of ammunition, according to state-run Andalou news agency. Turkey didn’t give details about any alleged ties the 820 suspects have to the Islamic State.

But ever since the botched military coup in July, 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has developed a penchant for cracking down on political opponents, free press, and businesses under the guise of anti-terror operations. Turkey has been in a state of emergency since the failed coup where the president can rule by decree. Critics say it’s only an excuse for Erdogan to consolidate power.

Photo credit: OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. @robbiegramer

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