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Australia warns of Gallipoli terror threat

April 6, 2017

Australia says it has received information that terrorists may target a WWI commemoration service at Gallipoli, Turkey, later this month. But it said the event was scheduled to go ahead as planned.

Neuseeland Soldat
Image: picture alliance/S.Z.Fazlioglu

Australian authorities on Thursday urged people wanting to travel to Turkey to commemorate a World War I campaign at Gallipoli to exercise a high degree of caution in light of information that extremists might be planning to attack the memorial event on April 25.

"There is information to suggest that terrorists may seek to target Anzac Day commemorations on the Gallipoli peninsula," said Veterans' Affairs Minister Dan Tehan.

He said that the intelligence received did not refer to a specific attack, but rather a general intent, and that the commemoration was scheduled to continue as planned.

The warning comes in addition to earlier travel advice for travelers to be cautious in Turkey, and to reconsider the need to visit Ankara and Istanbul following four suicide bombings in the two cities in 2016 that killed more than 80 people.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully also advised his country's citizens to be careful when traveling to Turkey and avoid trips to Ankara and Istanbul.

Türkei Anzac 100. Jahrestag Schlacht bei Gallipoli Erster Weltkrieg
Many Australians and New Zealanders attended the centenary commemoration of the Gallipoli landing in 2015Image: Reuters/O. Orsal

Bloody campaign

Nearly 500 Australians and New Zealanders are registered to attend this year's annual Gallipoli event, which commemorates the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) during World War I.  Some 10,000 soldiers from the two countries lost their lives during the campaign starting April 25, 1915, which also saw the deaths of 25,000 British, 10,000 French and 86,000 Turkish troops.

Tehan said Turkey was aware of the security threat and was stepping up measures to prevent any attack.

"The Turkish authorities are taking this extremely seriously. The celebrations on Gallipoli are as important to the Turkish authorities and Turkish people as they are to the Australians," he told reporters.

Australian police say they have thwarted planned attacks on Anzac Day celebrations in Australia itself over the past two years. In 2015, police in the eastern city of Melbourne arrested five teenagers suspected of planning a "Islamic State"-inspired attack to coincide with the city's commemoration service, while a 16-year-old was charged with planning an attack on an Anzac ceremony in Sydney in 2016. 

tj/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)