In an apparent crackdown on support for al Qaeda in Syria, Turkish authorities conducted simultaneous raids in seven provinces today against an Islamic relief organization and arrested at least 23 people, including senior al Qaeda operatives. The organization, Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH), reportedly the biggest Turkish provider of aid to Syria, is protesting its innocence. The operation has reportedly netted several senior al Qaeda operatives, including al Qaeda’s Middle East deputy leader İbrahim Şen, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, and the terror group’s Turkey representative, Halis Bayancuk.

So far the antiterror operation has resulted in the arrest of 19 people in Van, three in Istanbul, and one in Kayseri, as well as the dismissal of Devlet Çıngı, the chief counterterrorism officer in the border city of Kilis, Hurriyet Daily News reported. An account in Today’s Zaman said numerous al Qaeda operatives were arrested raids in the provinces of İstanbul, Adana, Kilis, Gaziantep, and Kayseri, and that helicopters were deployed in case clashes erupted.

Reuters cited reports by the Turkish news outlet Dogan that police were also conducting raids against al Qaeda suspects in the cities of Gazientep and Adana, near the border with Syria. […]