Turkish officials say they have broken up a cell that was behind last month's suicide bomb attacks against Jewish and British targets in Istanbul. The officials say the Istanbul-based terror cell has links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
Speaking at a news conference, the governor of Istanbul, Muammer Guler, announced that the group responsible for twin suicide bomb attacks against two synagogues, the British consulate and a British based bank had been put out of action.
Mr. Guler added that further attacks planned by that group had been prevented. The announcement follows the arrests of several key suspects in the car and truck bombings that left nearly 60 people dead and hundreds of others wounded. Many of the suspects allegedly had been trained and fought alongside Islamic militant groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. Some said they had met personally with bin Laden in Afghanistan and that the al-Qaida leader had ordered them to attack Western targets in Turkey.
The alleged leader of the Turkish cell, Harun Ilhan, who was arrested in the central Anatolian city of Konya, reportedly admitted that a foreign cruise liner was among planned targets. Another suspect, Fevzi Yitiz, allegedly confessed that the Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, which is used by U.S. and British military personnel, was also among the facilities Bin Laden wanted targeted. Both plans had been abandoned because of the difficulties imposed by stiff security measures
Governor Guler said a total of 159 people have been questioned and 35 of them have been charged in an investigation that is being carried out with help from the FBI and Britain's Scotland Yard. Mr. Guler added police had recovered substantial numbers of explosives, bomb detonators and weapons during several raids mounted across Istanbul. Mr. Guler said the suspects were not linked to any Turkish Islamic militant groups and that there was no reason "to fear further attacks."