October 16, 2016 - 9:23 AM
ISTANBUL - A suicide bomber blew himself up Sunday during a Turkish police raid against suspected Islamic State members near the Syrian border, killing three police officers and wounding nine other people, an official said.
In a separate explosion, a man suspected of being responsible for an IS suicide bomber cell in Gaziantep blew himself about 20 kilometres (12 miles) away in another district of the city, provincial governor Ali Yerlikaya said in a televised statement. No one else was killed or wounded in the second blast.
Earlier, police received a tip about a group of IS militants hiding in a house in the city's Sahinbey district and launched an operation to apprehend them. A militant blew himself up when he realized he couldn't escape. Three police officers were killed, while five police officers and four civilians were wounded, Yerlikaya said.
News reports initially said that more than one suicide bomber was involved in the first explosion.
The governor said the police raid followed intelligence that the group could be planning an attack on an Alevi cultural association in the city. The Alevis are an offshoot of Shia Islam and are the largest religious group in Turkey after Sunnis. IS regards Alevis as heretics.
Hours later, a man suspected of organizing IS activities in Gaziantep blew himself up in an apartment as Turkish police were about to "neutralize" him, Yerlikaya said. The man was identified by the governor as Mehmet Kadir Cebael. The man's wife and two children were apprehended alive. TV footage showed the fifth floor of the building in which part of the wall was blown away.
The governor said Cebael was the "brain" behind the plan to attack the Alevi cultural association.
Turkey has been rocked by a series of deadly attacks over the past year, carried out by IS or Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
In August, 54 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up during an outdoor wedding celebration in Gaziantep. Authorities said the attack was the work of the IS group.
Following the deadly attack in August, Turkish tanks entered the Syrian town of Jarablus and began its Euphrates Shield operation with Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces to clear its shared border with Syria from IS. The symbolic town of Dabiq in northern Syria was captured Sunday where IS fighters put up "minimal" resistance.
Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016