Officials announced Thursday that two men accused of masterminding PKK terror attacks in Istanbul last year were captured in an anti-terror sweep. Speaking at a press conference, Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin told reporters that the two suspects were among 44 captured in a joint operation by the National Intelligence Directorate (MİT) and police in Istanbul.
Şahin said one suspect was among the planners of the attack near Beşiktaş Vodafone Arena stadium and the same man who jumped out of the car before a suicide bomber detonated the bomb inside. The unidentified suspect also scouted the location before the attack, Şahin said. Another unidentified suspect captured in operations was the "organizer" of a different attack that targeted a bus carrying riot police in Istanbul's Vezneciler district, the governor added.
Security forces also confiscated 161 kilos of explosives in the possession of the suspects, along with propaganda material for the terrorist group. Governor Şahin said the security forces searched three shops and four warehouses during the operations and discovered 13 guns belonging to the suspects. "We believe that possible serious, sensational attacks in Istanbul were thwarted with this operation," Şahin stated.
On Dec. 10, 2016, two bombs, one planted in a car near an area where riot police were gathered and the other strapped to a suicide bomber in a park adjacent to Beşiktaş football club's stadium, were detonated immediately after a match. A total of 44 people, including police officers, were killed and 155 others were injured in the attack. In July, another bombing targeting a shuttle bus carrying riot police, claimed the lives of 11 people, including a civilian passersby and police officers in the bus, and injured 36 people. An affiliate of the PKK terrorist group claimed responsibility for the Beşiktaş and Vezneciler attacks.
The PKK has been behind a string of bombings in Istanbul and Ankara since it resumed its activities after a brief lull in 2015. Since then, the terrorist group has killed hundreds of security personnel and civilians, particularly in the southeastern Turkey, where it draws recruits. The PKK began its terror campaign in 1984 and an estimated 40,000 people in Turkey have died in the violence.