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Turkey detains 23 more internationally sought criminals: minister

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Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on Monday announced the capture of 23 more suspects who were being sought by 12 countries as part of ongoing police operations targeting foreign criminals who took refuge in Turkey.

Yerlikaya said on X that the suspects, who were sought for crimes ranging from drug trafficking and theft to murder, counterfeiting, terrorism and migrant smuggling, were listed in INTERPOL’s Red Notice, Green Notice or Diffusion systems, which flag suspects sought for arrest and extradition by individual countries.

He said the suspects were apprehended as part of Operation Cage-43 across six provinces and were wanted by Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, South Korea, Iraq, Iran, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Turkmenistan and Jordan.

The minister did not disclose the names of the detainees and vowed to continue his ministry’s ongoing crackdown on criminal organizations and drug traffickers regardless of nationality.

Yerlikaya is seen as a close and ambitious political ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announcing major arrests since his appointment last year.

Turkish police have detained dozens of people who were sought on INTERPOL Red Notices as part of the “Cage” operations over the past months.

The capture of dozens of internationally wanted criminals in Turkey after Yerlikaya took office has led to claims that Turkey became a safe haven for criminals during the time in office of Yerlikaya’s predecessor, Süleyman Soylu.

Turkey faced allegations of involvement in international drug trafficking during Soylu’s tenure, primarily driven by Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker. In a series of dramatic videos in 2021, Peker accused Soylu and other high-ranking officials of protecting and facilitating cocaine trafficking networks.

Soylu’s departure from the ministry had brought his alleged involvement in international drug trafficking and ties to mafia groups into the spotlight, leading to significant changes in the Turkish police force and crackdowns on international drug rings.

Soylu was appointed interior minister shortly after a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. He was the architect of a massive purge and arrest of thousands of non-loyalist citizens on bogus terrorism or coup charges.

He was elected to parliament in the May general election as a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker and enjoys parliamentary immunity.

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