Turkey says it has arrested top ISIL figure in raid

Interior minister says Mahmut Ozden had been receiving orders from Iraq and Syria to ‘carry out an attack in Turkey’.

Turkish police have arrested ISIL’s (ISIS) top figure in Turkey and suspect that the armed group planned to carry out attacks.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Tuesday said the operation to capture the suspect, identified as Mahmut Ozden, was launched after security forces recently detected an increase in activity by the group’s fighters based in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

“Daesh’s so-called emir of Turkey was captured and remanded in custody with important plans,” Soylu said on Twitter, using the Arabic acronym for the group.

“He had been constantly receiving orders from both Iraq and Syria to carry out an attack in Turkey,” Soylu later told reporters, adding that suspects linked to him were currently under interrogation.

Intelligence and counterterrorism police caught Ozden in an operation in the southern city of Adana and he was brought to Istanbul where he was formally arrested, Anadolu news agency reported.

That raid took place following the arrest of an ISIL suspect in Istanbul last week believed to have been carrying out reconnaissance for a potential attack, Anadolu said.

It said an assault rifle was found in a search of that suspect’s hotel room and it was determined that he received orders from Ozden, leading to the latest operation.

Soylu said seized digital materials also revealed there were plans to kidnap Turkish political and state figures and take them to Syria.

Turkish police sporadically carry out raids targeting ISIL. On July 19, they detained 27 people in Istanbul suspected of links to the group and of preparing an attack.

ISIL has conducted numerous attacks across Turkey, including on a nightclub in Istanbul on January 1, 2017, in which 39 people were killed, and a bombing in the city’s historic heart that killed 12 in 2016.

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