Security: Authorities conduct counterterror sweeps in Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey, early June 30. Further raids likely. Exercise increased caution.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Istanbul
  • Izmir

This alert began 30 Jun 2016 22:02 GMT and is scheduled to expire 05 Jul 2016 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Counterterror operations
  • Location: Various locations in Istanbul and Izmir
  • Impact: Increased security presence; localized traffic/transport disruptions

Summary
Police counterterror units launched raids against suspected Islamic State (IS) members and supporters at 16 disparate addresses across Istanbul and Izmir provinces in the predawn hours of June 30. Locations targeted by police in Istanbul Province included residences in the Gullu Baglar and Kavakpinar neighborhoods of Pendik township; the Adil, Aksemseddin, and Hamidiye neighborhoods of Sultanbeyli township; as well as several residences across the Basaksehir borough. Sweeps in Izmir targeted addresses in the Bornova, Buca, Karabaglar, and Konak districts (map). According to initial reports, authorities took at least 22 suspects into custody during the operation - 13 in Istanbul (including three foreigners of undisclosed nationality), and nine in Izmir.

The raids, which began just after 0400, were in response to the June 28 suicide bomb attack on Istanbul Ataturk International Airport (IST). Both Turkish and US authorities have linked the attack to IS militants.

Background and Analysis
Turkish security forces almost invariably conduct such security sweeps in the immediate wake of terror attacks. Although a total of 22 individuals were detained during the raids, this action does not necessarily indicate that all of the persons detained have links to IS or were involved in planning or supporting the attack at IST. Most anti-terror operations following such attacks are not "surgical" in nature; the overwhelming majority of suspects detained are typically released within a few days, following interrogation, with only a small fraction actually being charged with terror-related activities and held in pretrial detention.

Further operations of this nature are very likely over the upcoming weeks as the investigation unfolds and could occur in any Turkish city, depending upon the evidence obtained by law enforcement. While most security sweeps of this type typically end with no true violence as police storm the targeted premises and extract the occupants, they can result in dangerous exchanges of gunfire in cases where officers encounter an operational terror cell or a haven used by established criminals.

Advice
If operating in Turkey over the upcoming weeks, exercise increased vigilance - especially in major cities. Avoid lower-income or working-class neighborhoods where police operations are most likely to occur. Keep away from concentrations of police, gendarmes, or other security officers, particularly those who appear outfitted in tactical gear. Remain especially alert to the signs of a potential security operation forming if your business schedule requires you to be out and about during the early, predawn hours. If you find yourself in a location where security forces appear to be deploying, remain calm, and exit the area immediately. Follow the instructions of authorities, and carry proper identification and travel documents at all times.

Resources
Ataturk Airport (Turkish): www.ataturkairport.com
Sabiha Gokcen Airport (Turkish): www.sabihagokcen.aero
Related Advice: Recognizing suspicious objects and the threat of hidden explosives while traveling.
Related Advice: General guidance for persons living overseas or on extended visits, particularly in high risk destinations and during time of unrest or war.
Related Advice: General guidelines to protect yourself against terrorism.


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