June 23, 2016 at 9:34 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Report: Islamic State militants planned Istanbul trans march attack

Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade

Three members of the so-called Islamic State reportedly planned to attack a transgender rights march in Istanbul. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Three suspected members of the so-called Islamic State reportedly planned to attack a transgender rights march in Istanbul.

The Associated Press reported that Turkish counterterrorism police arrested the men in Istanbul’s Basaksehir and Pendik neighborhoods on June 17. Authorities reportedly found a suicide vest and a cache of weapons when they arrested the suspected militants.

A Turkish news agency identified the men as Zelimhan Asianbeck, Bekham Alim and Fuat Gunes.

Asianbeck and Alim are from Russia’s Dagestan region, while Gunes is from Turkey. The Associated Press reported the three men had traveled from areas under the control of the so-called Islamic State and provided weapons to militants in Istanbul.

The march had been scheduled to take place in Istanbul on June 19.

Authorities banned the event and a gay Pride march that was to have taken place this month, citing security events. Police on June 19 used tear gas and rubber pellets against activists in Istanbul’s Taksim Square who tried to stage the trans rights march.

“The Trans Pride March, organized 6 years in a row without any problems posed to public order, was terrorized by both the state and the puritanical groups, targeting our friends who participated in the organization of this week,” said the Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, the group that organized the march, in a statement on June 19. “The hateful culture created in society provided the basis for the attacks and, through the media, LGBTIs were turned into open targets.”

Police arrested Asianbeck, Alim and Gunes five days after a gunman killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The gunman, who was from Fort Pierce, Fla., pledged his allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in a 911 call he made after he opened fire inside the gay nightclub. There is no evidence to suggest the Sunni militant group prompted him to carry out the massacre.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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