A police raid on an apartment building in Istanbul’s Bostancı neighborhood yesterday ended in the deaths of three people, including a 16-year-old bystander, when the anti-terror operation turned into a shootout that lasted throughout the morning.
Raids were conducted in 60 areas overnight against militants from a far-left organization called "Revolutionary Headquarters" suspected of planning to carry out "sensational attacks," Interior Minister Beşir Atalay told reporters at a news conference at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport around midday.
The operation in Istanbul’s southeastern district of Bostancı turned violent when the suspected militant, Orhan Yılmazkaya, opened fire.
Yılmazkaya threw bombs targeting police officers from what security forces called a safe house, Atalay said. Local residents and witnesses later criticized police for failing to take necessary precautions during the shootout. The suspected militant was killed during the shootout, as were police chief Semih Balaban and an onlooker, M.S., 16, Atalay said. Seven other police officers, an NTV cameraman and another civilian were injured. All were reported to be in good condition.
Thirty-eight people were detained in the raids overnight. The suspects are thought to have links with an illegal far-left organization as well as the separatist terror organization, Atalay said.
"This terrorist had been under scrutiny for a while. He is one of the leaders of this far-left Revolutionary Headquarters and has links with the separatist terror organization," he said, adding there are two more people involved in the leadership of the far-left organization. An onlooker, S.E., 47, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the suspected terrorists had rented and resided in the Bostancı flat for nearly 15 days. According to Atalay, the organization carried out a mortar shell attack on the military’s headquarters in Istanbul and a bomb attack on the ruling Justice and Development Party's bureau in Istanbul.
Increased police presence
Those who live in the area have noticed a recent rise in the number of police officers on the streets.
"The existence of police in the neighborhood has substantially increased within the last one month," said Efan Koseoğlu, a 37-year-old pharmacist. "The amount of identity-card checking by police during this period has increased." Koseoglu said he saw police near the back of the building the night before the raid. "The back area of the building was cordoned off with fence," he said. "The clash started at 5 in the morning and intensified between 8 and 9 a.m." Speaking about the shootout that followed the raid, Hasan Koca, 24, who works at a nearby patisserie said, "I haven't heard the sounds of bullets continuing for such a long time before."
Eyewitnesses and locals living in the area criticized police for not taking the necessary precautions during the shootout.
"The police widened the area that was cordoned off after an onlooker was shot and blocked all entrances and exits to the street," said Koseoğlu. He said before Seker was shot, journalists and civilians were able to get closer to the clash.
Fulya Çimen from Istanbul also contributed to this article.