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Turkey arrests more than 750 in anti-IS weekend raids

The nationwide raids over the weekend were the largest ever in Turkey, long accused of not doing enough to stop IS
The raids took place in 29 of Turkey's 81 provinces, with weapons and ammunition seized (AFP)

Turkish security forces have arrested more than 750 people suspected of links to Islamic State in Turkey's biggest crackdown against the organisation, state media said on Monday.

Some 450 suspects were picked up in the initial phase of the nationwide operation on Sunday, but the number held has now risen to 763, the state Anadolu news agency said.

It said raids took place in 29 of Turkey's 81 provinces and documents, weapons and ammunition were also seized.

The operation came just over a month after a gunman killed 39 people, mainly foreigners from around the Middle East, in an Istanbul nighclub during New Year celebrations.

IS claimed the massacre, in its first clear claim for a major attack in Turkey despite being blamed for several bombings in 2016.

Turkish police have over the last few years launched numerous raids against IS suspects, but a nationwide operation on this scale against the group is unprecedented.

Anadolu quoted Turkey's police directorate as saying that IS was looking to stage a "sensational action" inside the country for propaganda purposes, with media organisations seen as a possible target.

No further details were given.

Turkey has long been accused by its western allies of not doing enough to stop the flow of militants across its borders into Syria, and the emergence of IS cells in its own cities.

Ankara denies the charges, saying it has listed IS as a terror group since 2013. Observers say Turkey has markedly stepped up its actions against the group in the last few months.

Police captured the suspected Reina nightclub attacker, Uzbek national Abdulgadir Masharipov, alive on 16 January after more than two weeks on the run, and observers believe he may provide crucial intelligence.

According to media reports, Masharipov had also considered attacking Istanbul's main Taksim Square as well as the offices of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper.