Turkish police on Wednesday detained two suspected Islamic State militants who were believed to be planning suicide attacks during New Year celebrations in central Ankara, officials said.
The two men were detained in a raid on a cell house in the low-income Mamak neighborhood of Ankara, where police also seized a suicide vest armed with a bomb, an explosive device that was fortified with ball bearings and metal sticks and placed inside a back-pack as well as bomb-making equipment, according to the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s office.
The two Turkish nationals, identified by their initials M.C. and A.Y., were being questioned by anti-terrorism police.
The prosecutor’s office said the men had staked out possible locations in Ankara, where they could carry out the attacks. The state-run Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed police and judiciary officials, said the would-be-attackers were planning to detonate the bombs at two locations near bars and a shopping mall near Turkey’s central Kizilay district during the celebrations.
“They were caught before they had the opportunity to take action,” the prosecutor’s office said.
The private NTV news channel, quoting security sources, said the two had “frequently” moved in and out of Syria and that security officials had been monitoring their movements for the past month.
In October, two suicide bombers detonated bombs outside Ankara’s main train station as people gathered for a peace rally. The attack killed more than 100 people and was Turkey’s deadliest. The prosecutor’s office said the attack was carried out by a local cell of the Islamic State group.
More than 30 people were also killed in a IS suicide attack in the town of Suruc, near Turkey’s border with Syria, in July.
Earlier this year, Turkey agreed to take a more active role in the U.S.-led battle against the IS group. Turkey opened its bases to U.S. aircraft to launch air raids on the extremist group in Syria and has carried out a limited number of strikes on the group itself.
It has also moved to tighten security along its 900-kilometer (560-mile) border with Syria in a bid to stem the flow of militants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.