Saturday, January 23, 2010

Al-Qa'ida Arrests in Turkey

From the Associated Press:
Turkish police launched a nationwide crackdown on suspected militants linked to the al-Qaida terror network on Friday, rounding up 120 people in simultaneous pre-dawn raids, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

It was not clear if Friday's raids in 16 provinces in this NATO member and western ally country would amount to a major blow to homegrown Islamic militants.

Yeni Safak newspaper this week reported that Turkish police had recently seized video recordings of alleged Turkish al-Qaida militants in Taliban camps in Afghanistan, as well as alleged plans for attacks on Turkish soldiers in Kabul and on police in Turkey. It did not cite a source for the report.

Turkey, NATO's sole Muslim member, took over the rotating command of the NATO peacekeeping operation in Kabul in November and doubled its number of troops to around 1,750. Turkey has also said it is ready to serve as an exit route for U.S. troops' withdrawal from Iraq.

Friday's crackdown follows another raid on suspected militants in the cities Ankara and Adana last week in which police rounded up and interrogated some 40 people and reportedly seized documents detailing al-Qaida activities. Twenty-five of them were charged with membership in a terrorist organization while the rest were released.

Those detained Friday's raids include a faculty member of the Yuzunci Yil University in the eastern city of Van, who is suspected of recruiting students at the campus and other people through the Internet and of sending them to Afghanistan for training, Anatolia reported, citing unnamed police officials. The suspect was identified by his initials M.E.Y. only.

Anatolia said other suspects included some local leaders, university students, and people believed to be spreading al-Qaida propaganda.
Four bombs attacks carried out in Istanbul in November 2003 killed 57 people, injuring over 700 others, most of them Turkish Muslims. The first two bombs targeted two Jewish synagogues, and the second two, carried out five days later, targeted the British Consulate and HSBC bank. The three gunmen who attacked the U.S. consulate in July 2008 were also thought to have connections to al-Qa'ida, though much less direct. That attack killed three Turkish police officers charged with guarding the consulate. Two alleged al-Qa'ida members were eventually charged in connection with that attack.

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