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Turkey detains senior Islamic State figure, minister says

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police have arrested Islamic State’s top figure in Turkey and they suspect the militant group planned to carry out attacks, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Tuesday.

He said the operation to capture the suspect was launched after security forces recently detected an increase in activity by the jihadist militants, based in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

“He had been constantly receiving orders from both Iraq and Syria to carry out an attack in Turkey,” Soylu told reporters, naming the suspect as Mahmut Ozden and adding that suspects linked to him were currently under interrogation.

Intelligence and counter-terror police caught Ozden in an operation in the southern city of Adana and he was brought to Istanbul where he was formally arrested, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

That raid took place following the arrest of an Islamic State suspect in Istanbul last week believed to have been carrying out reconnaissance for a potential attack, Anadolu said.

It said a Kalashnikov rifle was found in a search of that suspect’s hotel room and it was determined that he received orders from Ozden, leading to the latest operation.

Soylu said that seized digital materials also revealed that there were plans to kidnap political and state figures and take them to Syria.

Turkish police sporadically carry out raids targeting Islamic State. On July 19 they detained 27 people in Istanbul linked to the group who were suspected of preparing an attack.

Islamic State has conducted numerous attacks across Turkey, including on a nightclub in Istanbul on Jan. 1, 2017 in which 39 people were killed, and a bombing in the city’s historic heart that killed 12 in 2016.

Reporting by Daren Butler and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Ed Osmond

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