3 Turk­ish po­lice killed by suicide bomb near border

An­other ‘bomb cell’ ex­plo­sive det­o­nated but no causal­i­ties

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A sus­pected Is­lamic State suicide bomber blew him­self up dur­ing an anti-ter­ror raid in the Turk­ish city of Gaziantep yes­ter­day, killing three po­lice of­fi­cers, of­fi­cials said. A few hours later, a sec­ond suicide bomber-iden­ti­fied as the chief of IS group “bomb cells” in the city near the Syr­ian border-det­o­nated his ex­plo­sives, killing him­self but with­out caus­ing any fur­ther fa­tal­i­ties.

The blasts took place shortly after Turk­ish­backed rebels cap­tured the north­ern Syr­ian town of Dabiq from the IS group, deal­ing a ma­jor sym­bolic blow to the ji­hadists. In the first at­tack in Gaziantep, the bomber set off his ex­plo­sives to avoid be­ing cap­tured by Turk­ish po­lice, lo­cal gov­er­nor Ali Yer­likaya said in tele­vised com­ments. Turk­ish me­dia had ini­tially spo­ken of more than one at­tacker but the gov­er­nor and the lo­cal pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said the body of just one bomber was found at the scene. The gov­er­nor said five po­lice and four Syr­i­ans were also in­jured. Act­ing on a tip-off, spe­cial po­lice used ar­mored ve­hi­cles to block the road where the sus­pected ji­hadists were holed up in a house, the state-run news agency Anadolu re­ported. Wit­nesses told pri­vate NTV television they heard sound of gun­fire and clashes in the area, which is mostly pop­u­lated by univer­sity stu­dents.

‘Sus­pected sleeper cells’

Video footage re­leased by the pri­vate Do­gan news agency showed sev­eral sus­pects with their hands tied be­hind their backs as they were taken to a po­lice car. Yer­likaya said the raid took place after Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties gath­ered in­tel­li­gence about a pos­si­ble suicide bomb at­tack by a sus­pected IS sleeper cell in Gaziantep against an Alevi cul­tural as­so­ci­a­tion. Po­lice con­fis­cated com­put­ers and hard disks from the house.

A sec­ond suicide bomber blew him­self up as po­lice hunted for sus­pects who fled after the first blast, Ye­likaya said. He was iden­ti­fied as Mehmet Kadir Cabael, chief of the IS group’s “bomb cells” in the Gaziantep re­gion and who was be­lieved to be sup­ply­ing lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port to the or­gan­i­sa­tion, ac­cord­ing to the gov­er­nor. He said the sec­ond bomb­ing caused no fur­ther ca­su­al­ties, adding that the sus­pect’s wife and chil­dren who were in the apart­ment build­ing at the time did not suf­fer any in­juries. Turk­ish po­lice have de­tained 19 sus­pects for al­leged links to IS group, the gov­er­nor said. Gaziantep, a ma­jor city ly­ing just 60 kilo­me­tres (37 miles) north of the Syr­ian border, has be­come a hub for Syr­i­ans flee­ing the civil war.

‘Con­tinue anti-ter­ror fight’

Since the sum­mer of 2015, Turkey has suf­fered a string of at­tacks in Gaziantep and else­where blamed on IS ji­hadists and Kur­dish mil­i­tants. In Au­gust, a suicide bomb­ing at a Kur­dish wed­ding in the city killed 57 peo­ple, 34 of them chil­dren. The at­tack was blamed on IS ji­hadists. In Septem­ber, the United States warned of the risk of a ter­ror at­tack in Gaziantep on busi­nesses fre­quented by West­ern­ers, in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar cof­fee chain Star­bucks.

At the time, the US em­bassy in Ankara warned its cit­i­zens that Turk­ish po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing a pos­si­ble “ter­ror cell” in Gaziantep. Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties ac­knowl­edge that IS ji­hadists have built up a pres­ence in the south­east­ern city with the aim of stag­ing at­tacks, and yes­ter­day’s raid was part of a wider crack­down on sleeper cells across the coun­try. Yer­likaya said Turkey “will con­tinue its fight against all ter­ror groups in­clud­ing Daesh”, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym for IS.

Turkey launched an un­prece­dented op­er­a­tion in­side Syria on Au­gust 24, back­ing up op­po­si­tion fight­ers, with the ul­ti­mate goal of cleans­ing its border of IS ji­hadists and stop­ping the ad­vance of Syr­ian Kur­dish mili­tia forces which Ankara ve­he­mently op­poses. Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has also voiced Turkey’s will­ing­ness to be­come in­volved in a coali­tion op­er­a­tion to re­cap­ture the north­ern Iraqi city of Mo­sul from IS.

Turkey is still reel­ing from an at­tempted July 15 coup blamed on US-based Is­lamic preacher Fethul­lah Gulen that has been fol­lowed by a re­lent­less purge of his sup­port­ers from all state in­sti­tu­tions. Kur­dish mil­i­tants have also staged a num­ber of at­tacks. Ad­her­ents of the Alevi branch of Is­lam are known for their hard­line op­po­si­tion to the Is­lamic-rooted rul­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party (AKP) co-founded by Er­do­gan. — AFP

GAZIANTEP: Am­bu­lances and se­cu­rity mem­bers at­tend the scene, near an ex­plo­sion site after suicide bombers blew them­selves up Sun­day dur­ing a po­lice raid against sus­pected Is­lamic State mil­i­tants near the Syr­ian border. — AP

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