DIYARBAKIR (Web Desk) – Seven suspected Islamic State militants and two Turkish police officers were killed on Monday in a fierce gun battle in the main city in the Kurdish-majority southeast, security sources said.
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The shootout in Diyarbakir erupted just six days ahead of elections in Turkey, with tensions running high following the country’s worst ever bomb attack and a resurgence of the conflict with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels, Turkish media reported.
The gun battle is the first with the IS militants on Turkish soil, as security forces hunt down suspects behind the October 10 Ankara suicide bombings that killed 102 people at a pro-Kurdish peace rally.
Police had launched dawn raids on several houses in a district of Diyarbakir where the militants were thought to be hiding out when the suspects opened fire, one source said.
The police officers were killed after booby traps planted around one of the houses exploded, according to the Anatolia news agency. Another four officers were injured.
Heavy shooting lasted for at least two hours with police fearing other militants could be holed up in the area. Three suspects were later arrested.
The authorities have declared the Islamic State group the number one suspect over the Ankara bombings, the deadliest attack in the history of modern Turkey.
Turkey launched air strikes on IS targets in Syria and Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq in July after another deadly bombing and later allowed the United States to use its Incirlik air base for bombardments against the militants.
A massive police hunt was under way at the weekend for a suspected IS cell that included a German woman allegedly plotting to carry out other attacks, Turkish media reported.
Anatolia said Saturday that security forces feared the four were preparing a major attack “such as hijacking a plane or a vessel or detonating suicide bombs in a crowded location”.
Police have been rounding up many suspected jihadists in the past two weeks, with four accused of taking part in the Ankara attacks.
Photographs of fake Turkish identity cards allegedly being used by the wanted suspects were published at the weekend by local media, which said the woman was born in Kazakhstan but had a German passport.
One of the identity cards was said to belong to Omer Deniz Dundar, who had previously been identified by the media as one of the two suicide bombers in the Ankara attack — although other reports had suggested the bomber was foreign.
The second bomber was officially identified last week as Yunus Emre Alagoz, brother of the man suspected of carrying out an attack in the mainly Kurdish town of Suruc on the Syrian border in July, which left 34 people dead.
Prosecutors had announced last Monday they were holding four people suspected of playing a role in the Ankara attack and said they had discovered a cache of suicide vests, Kalashnikovs and hand grenades suggesting there were plans for further bombings.
The Ankara attack has raised political tensions to new heights as Turkey prepares for the November 1 election.
Pressure has piled on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with opposition figures blaming him for security lapses over the Ankara bombing and failing to crack down on the IS group.