Man arrested over Gallipoli attack plot
TURKISH police sources say that a Syrian national arrested in Turkey was plotting to attack the Anzac Day dawn service, attended by thousands of Australians and New Zealanders, as retaliation for the Christchurch mosque massacre.
The man, Abdulkerim Hilef, 25, who was born in Eastern Syria, was arrested in Tekirdağ, a couple of hours from Gallipoli.
It is understood, from sources, that the police believe he was planning to either bomb the service or use a car to drive into people.
The arrest came after a police operation in Osmaniye, close to the Syrian border, where Turkish police raided an Islamic State cell and arrested several people. Those arrests led to Abdulkerim Hilef.
Police seized a Samsung phone and its SIM card along with a second SIM card and mobile phone communication was involved in the arrests
More than 1300 Australians were expected at tomorrow morning's service.
The Australian delegation running the service has yet to respond to the arrest.
Turkish officials have said that a mobile phone carried by the suspect, who was linked to Islamic State, would be at the centre of the investigation.
There has been road blocks on major roads into the area, with one set up earlier in the week on the outskirts of Tekirdağ where the arrest was made.
Local media report the man was arrested because of telecommunications with known ISIS figures.
Several thousand Turkish police and soldiers have been deployed to protect the services.
Airport style security has been in place and the site was due to be in
lockdown this afternoon local time for a security sweep.
Australian authorities have confirmed the reports of the Syrian national's arrest.
"The Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs and the New Zealand Defence Force (joint lead agencies) are aware of Turkish media reports that the Turkish National Police has arrested an individual who is alleged to be involved in activities designed to disrupt Anzac services at Gallipoli," the statement said.
"This is a matter for the Turkish Authorities.
"Australian and New Zealand agencies are liaising with the responsible Turkish authorities in relation to this media reporting."
The DVA said that the services planned for dawn local time would go ahead. " Planning and preparations for the Anzac commemorations at Gallipoli are continuing," the statement said.
Australians at the Boomerang bar in Eceabat, about 15 minutes drive from Anzac Cove were in shock at the reports of the arrest.
Sherrisa Bradshaw, 26, and Joel Mackellar, 32, who are from Brisbane but currently live in London said they had been worried about the potential for an attack.
"We thought about the threat of an attack after what happened in New Zealand," Ms Bradshaw said.
The comments of Turkish president Recep Erdogan had raised concerns, but the couple said they were confident in the security arrangements.
"We we're keeping a close eye on things after those comments," Mr Mackellar said.
The couple's tour bus was stopped on the way into Eceabat today with all passengers passports checked.
News Corp was also stopped near Tekirdağ at a road block two days ago for a driver's licence check.
Australians at the Boomerang Bar were scared at news of the arrest but determined to pay their respects.
Natalie Crouch, 29, originally from Hobart but now based in London, was attending Gallipoli with her mother Heather Crouch, 57.
"At first I was super scared but the more I think about it the plot has been foiled so it's better because there will be more security in place," Natalie Crouch said.
"But I definitely thought about whether I should be going."
Heather Crouch said: "I was the one who encouraged Natalie to come to the service, it's just something I have always wanted to do. I have always watched it on TV and I thought I always wanted to do that."
Jack Crameri, 32, of Melbourne said he would press ahead with plans to attend the ceremony.
"Neither Australia or Turkey can afford for anything to go wrong there," he said.
"I was in Russia for the World Cup and they were worried about security and I felt extremely safe there and I don't expect it to be any different here."
A sweep of arrests
Turkish police have been searching for bombs at Gallipoli for more than an hour.
They are combing the area with detection dogs to make sure it was safe after the foiled terror plot.
It was expected to take several hours and may delay some Australians from entering the area for the services.
Tekirdağ Police led the arrest team of Abdulkerim Helif, who was arrested at 7am local time to prevent an attack that was planned in retaliation for the New Zealand massacre, according to Turkish sources.
The arrest was part of a wide sweep of Islamic State supporters in Turkey in recent weeks.
There were four IS members arrested in Osmaniye, Turkey on April 16.
Another three IS members were caught in Bursa, Turkey, three days later, along with four more arrests in Kocaeli city, Turkey.
Turkish sources say that Helif had links to IS members and that there were multiple SIM cards in his possession.
More to come.