Turkey deported 778 foreign fighters in the past year, while security forces detained over 100 Daesh-linked suspects in nationwide anti-terror operations ahead of the new year
Over 100 Daesh-linked terrorist suspects were detained in nationwide operations in Turkey on Monday, while the interior minister announced that the country deported nearly 780 terrorist fighters in the past year.
"We have sent 778 foreign terrorist fighters back to their countries of origin since the beginning of the year," Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in a live broadcast on CNN Türk on Sunday.
Soylu did not mention whether all of them were linked to the Daesh terror group.
There are some 1,200 foreign Daesh members being held in Turkish prisons and nearly 300 were held in Turkey's current anti-terror operation in northern Syria, including relatives of Daesh members, Soylu announced on Nov. 4.
Ankara continues to deport foreign terrorists to their countries of origin.
The issue of the handling of Daesh members and their families detained in Syria – including foreign members of the terror group – has been controversial, with Turkey arguing that foreign-born terrorists should be repatriated to their countries of origin, while several European countries have refused, saying the terrorists were denationalized.
Soylu had previously criticized European countries for refusing to take their citizens back by revoking their citizenships, saying that Turkey "is not a hotel for terrorists." He said the country will send them back to their home countries regardless of their citizenship status.
Although the 1961 New York Convention made it illegal to leave people stateless, several countries, including Britain and France, have not ratified it, and recent cases have triggered prolonged legal battles. The U.K. alone has stripped more than 100 people of their citizenship for allegedly joining terrorist groups abroad.
Meanwhile, security forces detained 111 Daesh-linked suspects, including foreign nationals, in counterterrorism operations in Turkey's Ankara, Adana, Batman, Bursa, Samsun, Hatay and Kayseri provinces Monday.
Six suspects, including four Syrian and two Iraqi nationals, were detained in dawn raids in the southern Adana province.
Batman police squads also carried out simultaneous dawn raids on the homes of the terrorists, detaining 22 suspects including the so-called provincial head of the terrorist organization.
Around 400 police officers participated in the raids.
Police confiscated digital materials, weapons and organizational documents discovered in the raids, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.
In the Hatay province near the Syrian border police detained 11 suspects, a statement released by the governor's office said. The statement noted that the suspects were planning to carry out attacks targeting shopping malls, houses of worship including churches and other places.
In the central province of Kayseri, police detained nine Daesh-linked Iraqi nationals.
The suspects were transferred to the local police stations for testimony, reports said.
In northwestern Bursa province, police detained 16 suspects, including 13 Syrian nationals. One of the suspects has already been deported, AA reported.
Police in the capital Ankara detained 33 suspects in a joint operation conducted with the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The suspects reportedly corresponded with terrorists in conflict regions. The detained suspects included a Morrocan national, two Syrian nationals and 30 Iraqi nationals. Police are seeking 17 other suspects as part of the operation.
In the northern Samsun province, counter-terror squads detained 14 suspects in simultaneous operations in Canik, İlkadım and Atakum districts.
Turkey has deported more than 5,000 Daesh suspects and 3,290 foreign terrorists from 95 different countries in recent years while dismantling terror cells and safe houses providing logistical assistance to the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq or plotting attacks inside the country.
The country's efforts against Daesh made it a primary target for the terrorist group, which carried out numerous gun and bomb attacks targeting security forces and civilians, including the country's deadliest terror attack, which killed 102 people and wounded 400 others in a twin suicide bombing at a rally in capital Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015.
As part of Turkey's Operation Peace Spring, launched on Oct. 9, the country has fought to clear northern Syria in the area east of the Euphrates river of terrorist elements, while also making sure Daesh prisoners there remain in detention.
Turkey has taken measures against foreign fighters since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011. According to judicial sources, over 76,000 people have been banned entry to the country, and over 7,000 linked to terrorist groups or fugitives have been deported.
There are at least 1,174 Daesh terrorists in Turkish prisons, according to the Interior Ministry.