Syrian authorities on Sunday handed over to Turkey 22 people suspected of involvement in a wave of suicide bomb attacks in the country's largest city, Istanbul. The suspects include a key figure in the blasts that claimed over 60 lives.
The suspects are said to have fled to Syria shortly after the twin sets of suicide bomb attacks against Jewish and British targets in Istanbul.
One of the suspects handed over by Syrian authorities was Hilmi Tuglaoglu, a close associate of Azat Ekinci, named earlier as a key figure in the attacks. Ekinci, who is also believed to have fled the country, procured pick up trucks used by the suicide bombers to ram explosives into their targets.
In a related development, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler named Ilyas Kuncak as the perpetrator of the November 20 suicide bomb attack against the London-based HSBC bank. The British consulate in Istanbul was attacked simultaneously the same day by another Turk identified by authorities as Feridun Ugurlu.
Those blasts came five days after two Istanbul synagogues were targeted, also by Turkish suicide bombers. All four attacks were claimed by the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Governor Guler said investigations were continuing into possible connections between the suspects and international terrorist organizations, adding that it was too early to say for sure that al-Qaida had masterminded the attacks. According to media reports quoting leaked police reports many of the suspects were either trained or fought in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya and Iran.
On Saturday, a Turkish court charged another key suspect, Yusuf Polat, with seeking to overthrow Turkey's constitutional order, an offense that is punishable by life. Mr. Polat is accused of planning and ordering the execution of the attack against the Beth Israel synagogue. He was caught as he sought to cross into neighboring Iran. Police have charged a further 20 people in connection with the bombings.
Governor Guler said that no links had been established so far with Hezbollah, a Turkish group, that has no connection to its Lebanese namesake. Turkish media has widely reported that many of the suspects were involved with Hezbollah. Turkish officials in the past have accused Iran of supporting Hezbollah and other Islamic militant groups as part of its campaign to undermine Turkey's pro-secular and determinedly pro-western democracy. Iran denies the allegations.