Turkey on alert for ISIS attacks tomorrow

Police issue warning ahead of national holiday to commemorate country's founder

ISTANBUL • Turkish police have issued a nationwide warning about possible attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group during tomorrow's national holiday, state media reported, with military facilities seen as targets after the army stepped up attacks on the militants in Syria.

Both ISIS and Kurdish militants have staged bomb attacks in Turkey in recent months, fuelling concern about the spillover of conflict from its southern neighbour.

Turkish and United States-led coalition forces have killed dozens of ISIS fighters in shelling and air strikes in northern Syria after months of rocket fire from ISIS-controlled territory targeted a Turkish border town, killing 21 people.

The police warning, issued to all 81 provincial police forces on Monday, said ISIS "viewed Turkish soldiers and police as infidels, and fighting and killing them as permissible", state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

It called for a reassessment of security measures for celebrations tomorrow, when Turks commemorate the country's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and mark what is known as Youth and Sports Day.

Military and police facilities and public buildings were in particular regarded as potential targets, the police said, with media reports singling out Ataturk's mausoleum, Anitkabir, in the Turkish capital.

The armed forces said in a statement that the mausoleum would remain open tomorrow, when thousands of people traditionally visit and pay their respects.

The warning also coincides with increased police action targeting ISIS suspects in Turkey.

Turkish police in the eastern province of Elazig raided six addresses and detained seven ISIS suspects, including a senior commander of the group, Anadolu said on Monday.

It said the suspects had come from Syria, and one of them had carried out executions on behalf of the group there. ISIS documents were also seized during the raids.

A wave of suicide bombings this year, including two in Turkey's largest city Istanbul, have been blamed on the terrorist group, and two in the capital Ankara were claimed by a Kurdish militant group.

Separately, the Turkish Parliament yesterday began debating a controversial Bill that would strip dozens of deputies of their parliamentary immunity, and which pro-Kurdish deputies say is aimed directly at driving them out.

The Bill has already led to unprecedented scenes at the committee stage, with deputies exchanging angry blows rather than discussing the document.

Under current Turkish law, MPs have the right to full immunity from prosecution. If passed, the Bill would lift the immunity of 130 deputies from all parties whose dossiers have been sent to the Speaker.

But the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party says the Bill is essentially a drive to expel its MPs.

Its MPs are particularly vulnerable to prosecution on allegations of links or even verbal support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, which is fighting a renewed insurgency against the Turkish state.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Turkey on alert for ISIS attacks tomorrow'. Print Edition | Subscribe