Turkey has stopped more than 36,500 terror suspects heading for Syria, Interior Minister Efkan Ala said Thursday.
Most suspects were stopped from entering Turkey at the border while nearly 2,800 were arrested and later deported, Ala told Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk meeting in Ankara.
“Turkey has denied entry to 33,746 people from 123 countries suspected of joining terror activities in Syria,” he said.
Ala added: “Turkey has detained and deported 2,783 suspects from 89 countries.” The minister did not indicate a time scale for the interventions.
Turkey, which shares a 900 kilometer (560 mile) border with Syria, has been a transit point for foreigners trying to join groups such as Daesh. The Turkish authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow, improving security checks at ports, airports and crossings and reinforcing security on the Syrian border.
Ala said Turkey exchanged intelligence with the suspects’ governments.
Identifying stability in Syria as the key to resolving the terror threat, Ala added: “There are many different terrorist groups in Syria. They have opened a space for themselves there and [have] conducted terrorist activities.”
Turkey has hosted around 2.7 million refugees from Syria and Iraq, Ala said, spending nearly $9 billion. Turkey had received less than $500 million in funding from other countries since the war started in 2011, he said.
Turning to domestic terrorism, Ala said security forces had seized 2,240 weapons, 10 tons of explosives and 10,000 petrol bombs from the terrorist PKK group, which is also considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU.
He said the PKK had received support from a number of municipal authorities in southeast Turkey.
“The interior ministry has so far investigated 18 mayors and 41 aldermen,” he said. “Some of them were removed from their posts and some others arrested.”
Ala singled out the use of publicly-owned mechanical diggers and other vehicles as an indication of officials colluding with the PKK, who use the machinery to dig ditches and erect barricades to impede the security forces.
Since late July, more than 200 members of the security forces have been martyred and around 1,700 PKK terrorists killed in renewed violence which brought to an end a government-backed initiative -- known as the 'Solution Process' aimed at finding a settlement to the decades-old terrorism problem.