image Photo: Reuters

ISIS cell caught before attack on Turkish synagogues, churches

It has been revealed that the capture came on Sunday, just before the country was hit by devastating earthquakes.

By Erin Viner

“15 people were detained on the grounds that the so-called Khorasan Province leadership of Daesh (an Arabic acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group, also known as ISIS or IS) ordered an action against the Swedish and Dutch Consulate Generals and places of worship belonging to our Christian and Jewish citizens in Istanbul,” said a city police statement reported by the Hürriyet Daily News.

The Islamic State’s Khorasan wing (IS-K) is named for a region of the ancient Persian Empire.

The thwarted attacks may have been planned in retaliation for the public burning in late January of a Quran by a far-right Danish politician outside of Ankara’s the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. The incident prompted widescale outrage across the Islamic world, with one Muslim man threatening to burn a Torah scroll outside of Israel’s Embassy in the Swedish capital.

The United States State Department issued a warning last month of possible imminent attacks on sites revered by Christians and Jews in Turkey, while cautioning Americans residing in the country to be on heightened alert against terror attacks on diplomatic compounds or sites where Westerners are known to gather.

There are about 26,000 Jews in Turkey, and 23 synagogues of which 16 are in Istanbul. The main Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul has been the target of three anti-Jewish attacks by Islamist radicals. 23 worshippers were killed and six others injured during a September 1986 machine gun shooting by the Palestinian Abu Nidal terror group; 25 people were killed and 300 were wounded by suicide bombers at Neve Shalom and another city in a 15 November 2003 attack claimed by the Al-Qaeda and Turkish ‘Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front’ terror groups; and in 2003 during a series of Al-Qaeda bombings on additional synagogue, as well as Western targets, that killed 28 and injured hundreds.

Between 200,000 to 320,000 Christians of different denominations live in Turkey, accounting for about  0.3–0.4 percent of the population. Many are believed to practice their religion secretly due to persecution by the

In related developments, following devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, at least 20 ISIS terrorists reportedly escaped on Monday from a northwestern Syria military police prison operated by pro-Turkish factions. 1,300 of the 2,000 inmates at the facility, located in the town of Rajo near the Turkish border, are believed to be Islamic State terrorists.