On June 15, Turkish security units conducted simultaneous operations against alleged al Qaeda cells in the northwestern provinces of Bursa and Balıkesir, based on intelligence that members of the cells were involved in recruiting fighters for the organization. The raids followed a determination by Turkish intelligence officials that the suspects had illegally travelled to Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan for training. As a result of the operations, one person was arrested in Balıkesir province and seven were arrested in the İnegöl district of Bursa province. The suspects were charged with “assisting and sheltering the al Qaeda terror organization, recruiting members and being a member of the organization.”
Three days later, on June 18, an operation involving seven simultaneous raids took place in Gaziantep, a city near Turkey’s border with Syria, after a one-year surveillance period by the Gaziantep Anti-Terror Directorate. Seven members of al Qaeda were apprehended by police, including one alleged to be the leader of the organization’s Gaziantep cell. They were charged with “supplying members and money to fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Gaziantep has long been thought to be a way station for al Qaeda militants traveling to Afghanistan. It is also thought to be a home base for al Qaeda militants returning from Afghanistan. As such, the operation against the Gaziantep cells and the arrest of its leader are significant in possibly disrupting a key travel route for al Qaeda fighters heading to conflict zones in Afghanistan.
On June 28, a similar operation took place in Yalova, a city located in northwestern Turkey on the coast of the Sea of Marmara, in which six al Qaeda suspects were apprehended after simultaneous operations in several districts.
Although al Qaeda is not very active in Turkey, Turkish police routinely conduct operations around the country and apprehend suspected al Qaeda militants each time.
Al Qaeda perceives Turkey, a secular Muslim democracy, as a traitor that abolished the Caliphate. In 2003, members of an al Qaeda cell in Turkey carried out simultaneous attacks in Istanbul against two synagogues, an HSBC bank branch, and the British Consulate, killing 60 people and injuring over 700 more.
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