Turkish authorities detained two suspected Islamic State militants (IS) at Istanbul’s main international airport carrying at least 150 original European passports, an official said on Thursday.
Counter-terror police detained the suspects, a Syrian and a Turk, at Ataturk Airport after they flew in from a European country, finding they had stuffed the passports into pizza ovens, media reports said earlier.
“Airport police... found at least 150 fake passports among their personal belongings,” a Turkish government official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
The private Dogan news agency said the police seized a total of 148 European passports hidden inside “five mini-pizza ovens”.
The suspects have been taken to the anti-terror headquarters of Istanbul police for questioning, it added.
Two hidden cameras, scores of memory cards and SIM cards were also seized, it added. Dogan had said that the passports were all original.
Long criticised for not doing enough to stem the flow of jihadist fighters across its volatile border with Syria, Turkey has stepped up fight after a number of deadly attacks on Turkish soil blamed on IS, making almost daily arrests of would-be jihadists.
“Today’s arrests exemplify how effective the anti-ISIS measures have been,” said the official, using a different acronym for IS, which is also called ISIL or Daesh.
“We look forward to working more closely with source countries to keep ISIS fighters away from Syria.”
Interior Minister Efkan Ala said today that Turkey has imposed entry bans on 33,746 terror suspects from 123 countries since the Syria conflict began.
In addition, 2,783 jihadist suspects from 89 countries have been detained in Turkey and deported.