Turkish authorities have arrested a suspected member of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) they believe was planning to attack a World War I commemoration at Gallipoli attended by hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders, police said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
The suspect, a Syrian national, was detained in Tekirdağ, a northwestern province close to the Gallipoli Peninsula, a Tekirdağ police spokesman said.
Every year, Australians and New Zealanders travel to Turkey for memorial services commemorating the failed 1915 military campaign by ANZAC and allied forces to drive Ottoman troops from Gallipoli and the Dardanelles region.
On Wednesday soldiers from New Zealand, Australia, Turkey and other countries held several services on the peninsula. At dawn on Thursday, Australians and New Zealanders were due to hold a special service marking the landing by ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) forces.
The Demirören news agency said the man was preparing for an attack on the commemorations in retaliation for the attacks on Muslims in mosques in New Zealand.
The police spokesman did not specify which day the detained suspect may have been planning to carry out an attack.
Turkey has said ISIL was responsible for several bombings that took place in 2015 and 2016, which in total killed some 200 people. Although the militant group has not been active in Turkey as of late, authorities still carry out routine operations against suspected ISIL members.
This year’s ANZAC service takes place a month after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faced criticism from Australia and New Zealand for comments he made after a lone gunman killed 50 people in two mosques in the city of Christchurch on March 15.
Erdoğan played a video from the shootings at local election rallies and said the gunman had targeted Turkey by saying in a manifesto posted online that Turks should be removed from the European half of Istanbul.
He also threatened to send back in coffins anyone who tried to take the battle to Istanbul.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder for New Zealand’s worst peacetime mass shooting. Fifty other people were injured in the attacks, which occurred during Friday prayers.