The postponement of the Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe derby game late on March 20 was due to a suspected terrorist plot to stage an attack similar to the attack in Paris in November last year, according to well-placed intelligence sources.
The Islamic State (IS), which has carried out several attacks in Turkey in recent months, including the March 19 suicide bombing in central Istanbul, was planning an attack at the end of the derby game between archrivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe as fans were leaving the stadium.
Intelligence sources said IS militants would first carry out a suicide bomb attack in the crowd and then randomly open fire.
After receiving the intelligence, officials from the Interior Ministry along with the General Directorate of Security and Istanbul Directorate of Security assessed measures to take. They first decided to not allow any fans into the stadium but then announced a cancellation of the match around one hour before kick-off.
IS's initial target had been the planned Newroz celebrations in Istanbul, but they switched to focus on the derby game after Newroz events across the city were cancelled due to security concerns.
Nevruz marks the beginning of spring in many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures and is traditionally celebrated on March 21, particularly among Kurds.
IS member Mehmet Öztürk killed three Israelis and one Iranian in a March 19 suicide bomb attack on Istanbul's central İstiklal Avenue, wounding dozens of others.
Police notices have been issued for three IS suicide bombers thought to be a large in Turkey, who are believed to have planned simultaneous terror attacks in numerous points in Istanbul.
The plan to strike the Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe match is said to have been organized by Yunus Durmaz, IS's so-called “Gaziantep emir” known as Ebu Ali, who was also the master of the Ankara attack on a peace protest, which claimed 103 lives on Oct. 10, 2015.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated on March 20 that the game was postponed upon “serious intelligence,” while responding to questions during a broadcast on the state-run TRT station on March 20.
The president was scheduled to meet with the heads of Turkish football clubs on March 21.
Late on Nov 13, 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks were held in the French capital and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis. First, three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis during a football friendly between France and Germany, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafÃ©s, restaurants and a music venue in central Paris. The IS militants killed 130 people, including 89 at the Bataclan Theatre, where they took hostages before engaging in a stand-off with police.
Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in November's attacks, was arrested by police in Brussels last week and is now formally charged with involvement in terrorist murder along with a second man detained with him the previous day, Belgian prosecutors have said.