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7 Arrested in Connection with Istanbul Bombings - 2003-11-21


Turkey says it has made several arrests in connection with the deadly bombings Thursday of the British consulate general and a branch of a London-based bank in Istanbul. Twenty-seven people died, and more than 400 were wounded in the blasts. Western governments are warning that Turkey could be in for still more terrorist attacks.

A day after suicide bombers staged the twin attacks on British targets, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters the investigation into the blasts is making progress.

"Some people have been arrested, but I think it's too early to give more information about them," he said.

Mr. Gul's announcement came as one usually reliable Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet, reported that seven people have been arrested in conjunction with Thursday's attacks, and that police believe the two car bombers were Turkish nationals and close associates of the suicide bombers who staged attacks last Saturday against two Istanbul synagogues. Those attacks killed 25 people and wounded more than 300.

The United States and Britain have issued warnings that Turkey could be the target of more terrorist attacks because of its alliance with western nations that promote it as an example of a successful secular Muslim democracy.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who inspected what remains of his country's consulate general early Friday, told reporters, international terrorists played a part in the attacks.

"They appear to be perpetrated by al-Qaida and its associates," he said.

An al-Qaida branch, known as the Abu Hafz al-Masri Brigades, has claimed responsibility for the twin attacks on British interests, as well as the bombings of the synagogues. And a militant Islamic Turkish group known as the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front says it undertook all four attacks in association with al-Qaida.

Mr. Straw says the global terrorist offensive needs a global response.

"The fact that this is the second set of atrocities here in Turkey in the space of a week, that it has followed terrorist atrocities that have taken place across the world - in Indonesia, in Saudi Arabia, in Morocco, across Europe, in the United States - shows that we who represent the civilized world are facing a global threat, and we have to deal with it in a global way," he said.

Turkey's worst week of terrorist violence in years comes as the country's economy is just beginning to recover from a severe financial crisis. The most recent terrorist attacks have threatened its important tourism industry and unnerved foreign investors.