Turkey Arrests 147 Suspects Linked to ISIS in Wake of Connections to Moscow Attacks

In the aftermath of the Crocus City Hall attack in Moscow, Turkey has intensified its counterterrorism efforts by arresting 147 individuals suspected of affiliation with the Islamic State (IS) group.

Connections to the Crocus City Hall Attack:

This operation comes in the wake of revelations that at least two of the Tadjik nationals implicated in the Moscow attack had previously stayed in Istanbul, with one of them just last month.

Their weeks-long stay in Turkey, followed by their return to Russia on March 2, illustrates the complex routes used by individuals linked to terrorist activities.

Turkish authorities have emphasized that these individuals, despite their brief stay, are believed to have radicalized in Russia.

Turkey’s Struggle Against IS:

The Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghan branch of IS and its de facto heir, is active in Central Asia as well as Turkey. This presence poses an ongoing threat in Turkey, with the group claiming responsibility for an attack on an Italian Catholic church in Istanbul last January,  and executed by a Tadjik national along with a Russian accomplice. The presence of a significant Central Asian diaspora in Istanbul has been identified as a potential recruitment pool for IS-K.

Turkey has become a refuge for former IS fighters, notably from Syria and Iraq, following the military setbacks faced by IS in 2017 and the fall of their claimed caliphate in March 2019. Turkish authorities have conducted regular operations against IS cells, and these arrests come as part of a broader crackdown, with a total of 2,919 people allegedly linked to the terrorist organization detained across the country since June 1 2023.

Future Expectations and Challenges:

The response of Turkish authorities, marked by widespread arrests and counterterrorism operations, may not fully address the deep-seated presence of groups like IS-K within diaspora communities.

Turkey’s role as a pivotal player in regional stability and as a member of NATO could lead to increased international collaboration to address the threat, but could also complicate Turkey’s diplomatic relations and have even broader international impacts.

For instance, understanding Turkey’s role as a transit and operational hub for IS-K members implicated in recent terrorist attacks in Moscow could be crucial for determining the future direction of Russian military efforts in Ukraine, especially as President Vladimir Putin emphasizes a connection with Ukraine.

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