ISTANBUL: Turkish police launched raids across the country on Friday, detaining 21 people, most suspected of belonging to Daesh, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Three of the detainees were foreigners, and authorities believe they were planning to enter Syria to fight for the hard-line militant group, which is battling both President Bashar Assad’s forces and opposition groups backed by Turkey’s Western allies.
The raids come just days after US officials including Retired General John Allen held talks in Ankara on joint efforts to fight the militants. Washington has been pressing Turkey to do more in the fight against Daesh.
Brett McGurk, the US deputy special presidential envoy to the anti-Daesh alliance, on Twitter described the police action as “important raids” against suspected Daesh agents and facilitators.
Officials at the counter-terrorism department in Istanbul’s police headquarters declined to comment.
Authorities seized hunting rifles and ammunition in the simultaneous dawn operations in Istanbul and the nearby town of Kocaeli, as well as in Sanliurfa and Mersin, which are in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, Anadolu said.
In a separate operation targeting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), police in Istanbul on Friday detained 32 people, Hurriyet newspaper said on its website. The PKK has waged a 30-year insurgency against Turkey but violence has largely stopped since it declared a cease-fire in 2013.
Police seized homemade explosives and nine firearms in the raids, the daily said.
Turkey has watched with concern as Syrian Kurdish PYD forces, backed by US-led air strikes, have pushed back Daesh militants from Syrian towns near the Turkish border.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said the Syrian conflict poses a major threat to Turkey. Thousands of foreigners have been barred from entering because of security concerns.