Turkey detains suspected close associate of 'Jihadi John': official
Turkish authorities have detained a suspected close associate of the notorious Islamic State (IS) group militant known as "Jihadi John" who Washington believes was likely killed in a drone strike in Syria, a Turkish official said Friday.
The official told AFP that Aine Lesley Davis, like "Jihadi John" a British citizen who guarded foreign prisoners in Syria, was believed to be among several Islamist suspects detained in a swoop in Istanbul and was now being held by the Turkish authorities.
Turkey was "99 percent certain" that the man detained was Davis, the official said, adding that this had already "been confirmed by the initial data".
The official described Davis as the "closest associate" of "Jihadi John".
Davis, a London-born British Muslim who turned to Islamist militancy, has been described by British media in the past as a key figure in the network of IS in Syria.
The official did not give further details over the arrest but noted it had come just as Turkey prepares to host world leaders for the G20 summit in its southern resort city of Antalya on Sunday and Monday.
"We are investigating if this suspect came for an attack," said the official, without specifying further. Davis had previously been assumed in media reports to be at large inside Syria.
"This shows that Turkey is facing a great risk to its national security," said the official.
"We expect an active response from the international community," the official added, saying that Ankara was in contact with Britain over the arrest.
Without giving details on timing, the official said that the man suspected to be Davis and an unspecified number of fellow jihadists had crossed into Turkey from Syria but it was unclear for what purpose.
"Jihadi John", whose real name is Mohammed Emwazi, is the masked figure who appeared in a string of graphic videos showing the beheading of Western hostages.
He was targeted in a combined British-US operation Thursday in Raqa, the de facto IS capital in war-torn Syria.
The US military said Friday it was "reasonably certain" that the notorious militant had been killed in the drone strike.
Turkey had long been under pressure from its Western allies to do more to halt the flow of jihadists across its borders but appears to have stepped up security measures in recent months.
According to official data released to AFP, in the first half of 2015 over 700 foreign suspected jihadists were detained and deported from Turkey whereas for all of 2014 the figure was 520.
© 2015 AFP