A suspected left-wing extremist is among three people killed Monday during a six-hour shootout at an Istanbul apartment, Turkey's interior minister said as security forces clamp down on extremists across the country.
Special forces raided a number of groups across Turkey
One police officer and a passer-by also died in the shooting. Six policemen and a television cameraman were wounded, Besir Atalay said.
The extremist – an alleged leader of an underground group known as the Revolutionary Headquarters who allegedly had links to Kurdish separatist rebels – was alone in the premises with a large stockpile of weapons and explosive devices.
Resisting arrest, the militant – identified as Orhan Yilmazkaya – exchanged gunfire with police who had surrounded the building in Bostanci, a busy residential neighborhood.
Heavily-armed special forces and specialized police units rushed to the scene, and a number of explosions were heard. Thick smoke billowed from a window of the block where residents were trapped inside their homes as the fire-fight intensified.
The civilian who died was outside the security perimeter when he was hit in the head by a stray bullet, Atalay said. The television cameraman was slightly injured when his ear was struck by a ricocheted bullet.
Atalay said the raid was part of a wider operation aimed at foiling attacks by left-wing extremists and the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). He said 40 people were detained as part of a wider operation in Turkey’s largest city.
Revolutionary Headquarters is suspected of being behind attacks on a military barracks and on a building housing the offices of the ruling AK Party, Atalay said.
Nationwide crackdown on militant groups
Istanbul has been targeted by left-wing and Islamist extremists intent on destabilizing the country
Elsewhere in Turkey, about 50 people – including suspected members of the Turkish branch of al Qaeda – were arrested in what appeared to be simultaneous raids aimed at underground Islamist groups suspected of planning "sensational attacks," the Anatolia news agency reported.
Islamist radicals have carried out bomb attacks in predominantly Muslim Turkey in the past, most notably in 2003 when al Qaeda militants killed more than 60 people in a series of bombings in Istanbul.
"These are extreme leftist, separatist and radical groups. There are more than 10 detained in the operations. Terrorists responded by throwing bombs in some places and seven policemen were wounded," Istanbul governor Muammer Gueler told reporters.