BY DAILY SABAH WITH AA
The number of people arrested in connection with the Nov. 13 Istiklal Street terrorist attack in Istanbul by the PKK/YPG terrorist group has risen to 25. The attack, the worst in recent years, claimed six lives and highlighted the danger the group poses to the country despite counterterrorism operations.
The latest among the arrested was Muhab A., who helped Ahlam A., the primary perpetrator of the attack, and Bilal H., one of the fugitive names in the investigation during their accommodation in southern Türkiye. Ahlam A., who infiltrated Türkiye from Syria, was captured some 10 hours after she left the explosives on the busy pedestrian thoroughfare at the heart of Istanbul.
Her capture led authorities to more names associated with the terrorist group and its affiliate in northern Syria, the YPG. Police detained 51 suspects initially and two were released after questioning. Seventeen among 49 others were remanded in custody while three others were released pending trial. Another 29 suspects were ordered to be deported.
Tareq A. and Süleyman G. were among eight others detained in a new wave of operations five days after the attack and they were arrested on terror-related charges and human smuggling for smuggling suspects into Türkiye. Syrian opposition forces in Syria’s Azaz, meanwhile, had detained a suspect who arranged the infiltration of Ahlam A. and Bilal H. into Türkiye. Five suspects were ordered to be arrested in the new wave of operations.
Prosecutors say Ahlam A., Bilal H. and the suspect arrested in Syria’s Azaz stayed together at a textile workshop in Istanbul and planned the attack there. Other suspects, including two brothers identified as Ahmed J. and Bakar J. are accused of helping Ahlam A. to hide after the attack.
Security forces also captured a suspect identified as the brother of Bilal H. in Istanbul, at a workshop where he worked. Authorities discovered photos of Bilal H. in “uniform” used by the PKK/YPG and in front of the terrorist group’s symbols, on the cellphone of the brother.
Türkiye also seeks the extradition of five suspects arrested in Bulgaria in connection with the attack, including three Moldovan nationals. Among the arrested is a suspect who is believed to have served as the “lieutenant” of Bilal H. in the terrorist group.
According to the investigation, Albashir confessed that she entered Türkiye illegally from the Syrian city of Afrin after receiving intelligence operative training from the YPG/PKK terrorist group. In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the United States and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the terrorist group’s Syrian offshoot.
After the attack, Türkiye launched aerial operations against the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan implied last week that a ground operation was also on the table to clear Syria’s north of terrorist groups threatening Türkiye. YPG/PKK terrorists have responded to Turkish operations by firing rockets at a Turkish town on the border with Syria killing two people including a young boy and a teacher.