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ISIL members involved in İstanbul church attack among 48 detained: minister

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As part of an operation targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), 48 people were detained in a series of coordinated operations in Turkey, including two suspected to be linked to a deadly attack at the Santa Maria Church in Istanbul on January 28, according to Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya.

ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, in which 52-year-old Tuncer Cihan, who was not a member of the congregation, was killed.

Yerlikaya tweeted that the people arrested had been detained as part of the “BOZDOĞAN-21” operation targeting individuals linked to the Istanbul church attack and others with connections to conflict zones. Thirty suspects were taken into custody in İstanbul and 18 in Ankara.

Following the attack on the church, numerous ISIL suspects were arrested across the country. In February Yerlikaya announced the arrest of two men alleged to be ISIL members who carried out the attack on the church.

The men were A.K. from Tajikistan and D.T. from Russia.

This raid takes on added significance in light of the recent ISIL-K attack on the Crocus City Hall in Moscow on March 22, which killed 144 people and injured over 550, in what was the deadliest attack on Russian soil since the Beslan school siege in 2004.

Two of the four attackers, Tajik nationals Saidakrami Rakhabalizoda and Shamsidin Fariduni, had traveled between Russia and Turkey.

The time these attackers spent in Turkey before the Moscow attack has attracted attention, particularly their stay in İstanbul’s conservative Fatih district and their travel to Russia on the same flight from İstanbul to carry out the attack.

A decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to revoke visa-free travel for Tajik citizens was published on Saturday in the country’s Official Gazette.

Turkey has been the target of numerous ISIL attacks since the group was declared a terrorist organization in 2013. Various bombings and armed attacks have killed 315 people and injured hundreds.

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