Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has congratulated his country’s security services over the arrest of two Daesh suspects thought to have been planning a New Year’s Eve attack in Ankara.
“We are doing our utmost all over Turkey with all our strength, intelligence and security units,” he said of Turkey’s efforts to combat terrorism.
On Wednesday, police arrested the pair over an alleged suicide bomb plot on the Turkish capital’s main square, which is the scene of annual Dec. 31 celebrations.
Prosecutors said the suspects had targeted two locations near Kizilay, a shopping and restaurant district in the heart of the city, and were equipped with explosive vests packed with steel ball bearings.
“They were under surveillance anyway,” Davutoglu, who is due to chair a security meeting in Ankara later Thursday, said. “Once again, I would like to congratulate our security units and police.”
He said security forces were on full alert.
Ankara was targeted by twin suicide bombings on Oct. 10, when 103 people were killed in an attack on protesters gathering outside the city’s main train station for a peace rally. The attack was the deadliest in modern Turkish history and has been attributed to Daesh.
Davutoglu also set out his country’s opposition to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) replacing Daesh in Syria.
“The only alternative to Daesh is the Free Syrian Army,” the premier said during a live interview broadcast on NTV late Wednesday.
YPG fighters and their female counterparts the YPJ have been combating Daesh militants in Syria, supported by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition.
Ankara is opposed to the group because of its affiliation with the PKK, which has conducted an insurgency against Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terror group by Turkey, the EU and U.S.
Davutoglu’s government has repeatedly warned the YPG against expanding its territory to the west amid fears it could gain control of the majority of Syria’s northern border with Turkey. Instead, it supports the Free Syrian Army and other groups opposed to the Syrian regime.
“Whoever threatens Turkey, whether Daesh or YPG, we will struggle against it when needed,” Davutoglu said.
Criticizing Russian support for Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Davutoglu said the Free Syrian Army was struggling to defend Aleppo and Idlib in northwest Syria while under heavy Russian bombardment.
“Russia is pleased with Daesh because its presence ensures the legitimacy of the Syrian regime,” the prime minister said. “The Syrian regime is also pleased with [Daesh].”
Russia began air operations in Syria on Sept. 30 and has frequently been accused of targeting moderate forces opposed to Assad by Turkey and the West.
At least 250,000 people have been killed since the Syria conflict began in 2011, according to the UN.
The interview also saw Davutoglu illustrate his vision of a new constitution. He said the 1982 constitution drafted by military rulers should be abolished and replaced with a civilian charter that “contains no restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms”.
A new constitution is expected to herald the end of Turkey’s current parliamentary system in exchange for a presidential model.