A court in the central city of Kayseri handed down 58 instances of aggravated life imprisonment and an additional 18 years each to seven defendants and 61 instances of same sentences to one defendant involved in a 2016 Daesh attack.
The suspects were accused of organizing a suicide bombing that killed 57 people and injured 86 on August 20, 2016 in the southern city of Gaziantep. The target was a street wedding where a large crowd had gathered. Three police officers were killed in a manhunt to capture Daesh suspects in Gaziantep a few months after the attack when a Syrian Daesh member blew himself up during a police raid. A senior Daesh member who was accused of ordering the attack at the wedding had also blown himself up when police closed in on him during an operation after the two incidents.
The trial for the Gaziantep attacks was relocated to Kayseri over security concerns. Prosecutors had asked the court earlier to hand down 60 instances of aggravated life imprisonment for defendants.
More than 300 people were killed in Daesh attacks targeting Turkey since 2014. Most were suicide attacks and apart from Gaziantep, the terrorist group targeted civilians in Şanlıurfa, Istanbul and Ankara in multiple attacks. The latest major Daesh attack was during 2017 New Year celebrations. A lone gunman wielding an automatic rifle gunned down revelers in a popular Istanbul nightclub and killed 39 people. Daesh launched its first attack on Turkish soil by killing police and military officers at a security checkpoint in central Turkey in 2014. Since then, Turkish security forces have been involved in a long-running campaign to rid Turkey of Daesh terrorists that also took them to Syria. The Turkish army had assisted the Free Syria Army (FSA) in eliminating the Daesh presence in Syrian towns near the border in 2016.
The country has also been the destination of choice for foreigners looking to join Daesh, due to its lengthy border with Syria. Turkey has long sought intelligence cooperation from countries where Daesh terrorists originated and since the attacks have arrested some 2,000 people linked to the terrorist group. More than 7,000 others were deported while some 70,000 people were denied entry to Turkey over their suspected links to the terrorist group. Security forces have also foiled at least 10 plots. Figures show that some 18,500 suspects are currently being monitored for their links to the terrorist group after being identified at airports upon arrival.