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Report: Istanbul bomb suspect killed in operation in Syria

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ANKARA, Feb 24 (AP): Turkish forces have killed the alleged mastermind behind a 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 “neutralized” on Wednesday in an operation by the Turkish intelligence agency near the northern town of Qamishli, the Anadolu Agency reported.

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said an airstrike by a Turkish drone on Wednesday killed a civilian and wounded a local Kurdish police commander. The drone attack occurred on a road linking Qamishli with the village Qahtaniya, it said.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Observatory said the civilian who was killed in the strike was known to smuggle people to Turkey. The man had, however, denied accusations by Turkish authorities that he smuggled into Turkey Ahlam Albashir, a Syrian woman who is accused of carrying out the attack.

The Nov. 13 bomb attack in Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Avenue left six people dead, including two children. More than 80 others were wounded.

Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with it. The Kurdish militants have denied involvement.

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At least 17 suspects have been jailed pending trial in connection with the attack, including Albashir who is accused of leaving the TNT-laden bomb on Istiklal Avenue. Officials said at the time that the attack’s planner had fled Turkey for Syria.

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

Turkey has launched three major incursions inside Syria targeting Syria’s main Kurdish militia since 2016 and controls a swath of Syrian territory along their joint border.

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