A “covert counterterrorism operation” is underway to halt an extremist plot in Turkey that earlier this week prompted the United States to urge the withdrawal of American families, the head of the House Homeland Security Committee said on Wednesday.
“We had six operatives taken into custody, ISIS operatives, from the caliphate, who basically have been talking about this imminent threat and plot,” McCaul added, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “Right now, within Turkey, what’s underway is an attempt to stop this plot.”
The comments appear to confirm a Sky News report earlier in the day that ISIS militants were in the “advanced” stages of a plot against an Istanbul synagogue that is connected to a community center and school.
"This is a more than credible threat. This is an active plot," an unidentified intelligence source told the news outlet.
The source added that the attack might be planned for "the next 24 hours or the next few days.”
“We have this latest warning about what’s happening in Turkey, where ISIS now is targeting Jewish children at schools,” said McCaul.
The House chairman linked the plot to the Obama administration’s call on Tuesday for families of U.S. military officials and diplomats to flee southern Turkey because of security fears. The U.S. warning, which also discouraged American tourists from traveling to the area, only referred to parts of southern Turkey and not to the tourist-heavy city of Istanbul, in the northwest.
According to Sky News, the six ISIS associates were arrested last week in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, not far from the border with Syria.
Turkey has faced a repeated barrage of terror attacks in recent weeks, which have been linked to both ISIS and Kurdish separatists.
Earlier this month, a suicide bombing in Istanbul’s popular Istiklal Street that was blamed on ISIS killed at least five people.