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Istanbul 2022 bomb suspect killed in operation in Syria, report says

The man was 'neutralised' in an operation near the northern town of Qamishli, according to Turkey's Anadolu Agency
People lay flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the 13 November explosion at the busy shopping street of Istiklal in Istanbul on 14 November 2022.
People lay flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the explosion at the busy shopping street of Istiklal in Istanbul, on 14 November 2022 (AFP)

Turkish forces have killed the alleged mastermind behind last year's deadly Istanbul street bombing, in an operation in northern Syria, Turkey's state-run news agency reported on Friday.

The man, identified as Halil Menci, was "neutralised" on Wednesday in an operation by the Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) near the northern town of Qamishli, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The 13 November 2022 bomb attack on Istanbul's bustling Istiklal Avenue killed six people, including two children, and injured 81 others.

Istanbul bombing: At least six killed and 81 wounded by 'attack'
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At least 17 suspects have been jailed pending trial in connection with the attack, including Ahlam Albashir who is accused of leaving the TNT-laden bomb on Istiklal Avenue. Officials said at the time that the planner of the attack had fled Turkey for Syria.

Turkish authorities blamed the bombing on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which denied involvement.

The PKK has fought an armed insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.

Shortly after the attack, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the order for the attack was given in Kobane, a city in northern Syria, where Turkish forces have carried out operations against the Syrian Kurdish YPG in recent years. 

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK, with which it has been locked in a deadly war for four decades. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the YPG is the main component, also denied any role in the attack.

Istanbul has been hit with several explosions in the past, including a suicide bombing on Istiklal street in 2016 by an alleged member of the Islamic State (IS) group. In the same year, the PKK claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed 38 people outside a football stadium in the Besiktas area in central Istanbul.

Last year's November attack also caused fear of backlash against the Syrian community in Turkey. In previous interviews with Middle East eye, some Syrians even suggested that the explosion could also have had the aim of pitting Turks against Syrians to further fray relations between the two communities.

Turkey shelters over 3.6 million Syrians, making it the world's largest refugee-hosting country. This has led to a rise in tensions. 

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