People wait for the Dawn Service ceremony at the Anzac Cove beach, the site of World War I landing of the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) on April 25, 1915, in Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, early Thursday, April 25, 2019. As dawn broke, families of soldiers, leaders and visitors gathered near former battlefields, honouring thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who fought in the Gallipoli campaign of World War I on the ill-fated British-led invasion. The doomed Allied offensive to secure a naval route from the Mediterranean to Istanbul through the Dardanelles, and take the Ottomans out of the war, resulted in over 130,000 deaths on both sides.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Australia leader plays down terror threat at Gallipoli event

April 24, 2019 - 11:34 pm

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's prime minister on Thursday played down any potential link between the arrest of a suspected Islamic State group member in Turkey and a World War I battle commemoration attended by hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders at the Gallipoli peninsula.

A Syrian national was detained in Tekirdag province before the annual gathering for a dawn service at ANZAC Cove to mark the April 25, 1915, landing of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps troops in an ill-fated campaign to take the Dardanelles Straits, according to media reports.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the arrest took place three driving hours from of the Gallipoli service and no changes to security had been made as a result.

"The reports that we are receiving are inconclusive about any link between that arrest and any possible planned event at Gallipoli itself," Morrison told reporters. "In fact, to make that assumption would be, I think, making a very big assumption."

Morrison said Australian Defense Force Chief Gen. Angus Campbell was representing Australia at the service and had nothing but praise for the work of Turkish police and military to provide security.

"I'd simply say this: It's fairly routine for Turkish authorities to arrest people with suspected terrorist links," Morrison said.

Concerns about Australians and New Zealanders' safety at Gallipoli escalated last month when a diplomatic row flared between Turkey and Australia after an Australian was arrested in the killings of 50 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand on March 15.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Australians and New Zealanders going to Turkey with anti-Muslim views would return home in coffins, like their ancestors who fought at Gallipoli.

Morrison slammed the comments as "highly offensive," but later said tensions had eased after Erdogan's office explained the president's words were "taken out of context."

ANZAC Day services were held throughout Australia and New Zealand on Thursday, with Britain's Prince William laying a wreath in the New Zealand city of Auckland.

The Duke of Cambridge will on Friday visit the mosques in Christchurch where 50 Muslims were killed and another 50 wounded.

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