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This article was originally published Sept. 3, 2020, on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
By RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
Several Uzbek nationals have been arrested along with dozens of other alleged members and supporters of the Islamic State (IS) group in Turkey.
The arrests on September 1-2 in the cities of Istanbul, Adana, Gaziantep, and Hatay were conducted following the arrest of Mahmut Ozden, whom Turkish investigators call the top IS figure in the country.
An official at the Turkish Foreign Ministry told RFE/RL on September 2 that at least 20 Uzbek citizens and other individuals arrested in the special operation by Turkey’s security service, are suspected of providing assistance to Ozden, whom the IS calls “the amir,” or ruler, of Turkey.
According to the official, the special operation was held after investigators found the names and addresses of suspects in computers and other electronic devices confiscated from Ozden.
Representatives of two humanitarian organizations based in Turkey also told RFE/RL that there were Uzbek nationals among the suspected IS members arrested by police.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced on September 1 that Ozden had been apprehended the day before.
The Interior Ministry said later that Ozden and his people planned a massive terrorist act at Istanbul’s historic Hagia Sofia — the former Orthodox Christian cathedral and museum that Turkey recently reconverted into a mosque.
IS has conducted many attacks across Turkey, including on a nightclub in Istanbul on January 1, 2017, in which 39 people were killed.
Uzbek citizen Abdulkadir Masharipov was identified by Turkish police as the man who carried out that attack and sentenced to life in prison by a Turkish court.
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