US warns citizens of ‘attack, kidnapping risk’ in Istanbul
ANKARA: The United States has warned its citizens of the potential risk of terror attack or attempted kidnapping of foreigners in Istanbul, which has been rocked by several bombings this year. The consulate in Istanbul said in a message late Saturday that extremist groups continued their “aggressive efforts” to attack Americans and other foreigners in the city.
“These attacks may be pre-planned or could occur with little or no warning, and include, but are not limited to: armed attack, attempted kidnapping, bombing, or other violent acts,” it said in an online notice. The consulate did not specify which group was believed to be plotting such acts, but in the past year the city has suffered multiple bombings by the Islamic State group (IS) and Kurdish militants.
In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, which authorities blamed on IS. Those visiting Istanbul or living in the city were advised to “review and update their personal security practices” when frequenting areas popular with Westerners or where they may live, the consulate said.
It is the latest warning from the US after the consulate in southern Adana province warned of a potential security threat targeting US-branded hotels in southern Turkey in late September. In the same month, the US embassy warned of the risk of a terror attack on businesses, including Starbucks, used by Westerners in Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border.
That warning came after a deadly suicide bombing in Gaziantep blamed on jihadists linked to IS in August. The attack on a wedding left 57 dead including 34 children. In the latest message, the consulate also told its citizens to avoid travelling to southeastern Turkey and to stay away from large crowds-especially in popular tourist destinations-as well as political gatherings and rallies.
35,000 suspects arrested
Meanwhile Turkey has arrested more than 35,000 people over alleged links to the group run by the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for the failed July coup, local media reported yesterday. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said the suspects had been placed under arrest since the attempted putsch that fell apart within hours, quoted by NTV broadcaster. Another 3,907 suspects were still being sought while nearly 26,000 people had been released into “judicial control”, he said.
Some 82,000 individuals had been investigated in total since the coup bid, he told the audience on Saturday at a ruling Justice and Development Party conference in Afyonkarahisar, western Turkey. Tens of thousands of people have been suspended, sacked or detained in the military, judiciary, police, education sector and media in connection with the July 15 attempted putsch blamed on Gulen and his Hizmet (Service) movement.
The unprecedented purge has come under heavy criticism from Turkey’s Western allies, including the European Union. Brussels has urged Ankara to act within the rule of law, which Turkey insists it is. Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the coup, during which a rogue military faction tried to oust President Recep Tayyip Er dog an.Gul en-who has lived in selfimposed exile since 1999 in Pennsylvania strongly denies the charges.—AF P