Following the New Year's attack at an Istanbul nightclub, Turkey has extended its state of emergency for three more months. The news came as Turkish authorities continued their search for the main suspect in the attack.
The Turkish parliament on Tuesday voted in favor of extending its state of emergency, which was set to expire January 19, for an additional three months. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the extension was necessary due to recent terrorist attacks in the country, including the attack on an Istanbul nightclub during a New Year's celebration that killed 39 people.
The state of emergency has worried the European Union, which believes emergency rule has been used to crack down against political opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and not just those believed to be behind the failed coup attempt in July. The state of emergency gives Ankara powers to fire state employees and shut down other associations, including media outlets.
More than 40,000 arrested
At least 100,000 people, including soldiers, police officers, teachers, judges and journalists have been removed from their positions over suspected ties to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government has blamed for inspiring the attempted coup on July 15.
More than 40,000 people have been arrested for their suspected ties to Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.
The state of emergency also extends the time suspects can be held in jail without being charged. Gulen has denied involvement with the coup.
Since the state of emergency was first imposed, more than 130 media outlets and publishing companies have been forced to close, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a press freedom organization based in the US.
CPJ also states that at least 81 journalists were imprisoned in Turkish prisons as of December 1.
Members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have also been arrested during the imposed state of emergency, accused of supporting the outlawed and militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Kurdish militant group Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a splinter group of the PKK, claimed responsibility for a December bombing in Istanbul that killed 38 people.
Hunt for suspected attacker continues
Turkish authorities continued their manhunt for the assailant on Tuesday. Police have arrested 20 people so far with a potential link to the New Year's attack, including two foreign nationals detained Tuesday afternoon at Istanbul's airport.
Police are still hunting for the man they believe was responsible for the attack, who was able to escape the scene of the shooting and is still at large. They are focusing on men with Central Asian and North Caucasus nationalities.
The attack, which took place at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul's Ortakoy district shortly after midnight on Sunday, was the first on Turkish soil to have been formally claimed by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group.
Late Tuesday, US President Barack Obama called Erdogan to offer his condolences for the attack. The two leaders agreed they must "stand united" to defeat terrorism, said the White House in a statement.
kbd/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)