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Turkey holds hundreds over alleged ties to Kurdish militants

File photo of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Ankara, Turkey Feb 17, 2019, 09.59 PM (IST)

Hundreds of people are in custody Sunday in Turkey after police raids on the 20th anniversary of the capture of militant Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, state media reported.

Police detained 735 people accused of having links to or supporting Kurdish militants in 156 operations carried out on Friday, state news agency Anadolu said, quoting the interior ministry.

During the raids, police found guns, rifles, ammunition and explosive material including improvised explosive devices, Anadolu said. But neither the ministry nor the agency said where the raids had taken place.

They subsequently released 226 people, and of those still held, 61 were formally arrested while legal procedures against 448 detained suspects were ongoing, the agency added.

Those detained were believed to be planning mass protests for the anniversary of Ocalan's capture.

The ministry said some of the suspects were also accused of planning to "create chaos" before the March 31 local elections in Turkey, the agency reported.

Friday was the 20th anniversary of the day when Turkish secret service agents caught Ocalan in Kenya, outside the Greek embassy in Nairobi -- on February 15, 1999.

He co-founded the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in 1978, an organisation that is now blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

The PKK, originally set up to win Kurdish autonomy, became an armed group in 1984 with the aim of creating an independent Kurdish state. In the subsequent insurgency, more than 40,000 people have been killed.

Ocalan is imprisoned on Imrali island, near Istanbul.

Story highlights

Police detained 735 people accused of having links to or supporting Kurdish militants in 156 operations carried out on Friday, state news agency Anadolu said, quoting the interior ministry.