/ 18 March 2009

Turkey warned of possible al-Qaeda attack

Turkish police have received United States intelligence that militants from the extremist al-Qaeda network could be plotting attacks on foreign targets in Turkey, the Milliyet newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Police spokespeople would neither confirm nor deny the report.

Milliyet said a team of 15 militants trained in bomb-making — among them Lebanese, Palestinians, Moroccans and Syrians — were reported to have entered Turkey from neighbouring Syria in January or February.

The group, believed to be operating in the central provinces of Konya and Aksaray, could be planning attacks against foreign missions in Turkey, the daily said.

And in a separate development, it said that a suspected militant who had come from Norway was believed to have been tasked with coordinating an attack against US or Israeli aircraft.

According to the information supplied by US intelligence services, senior al-Qaeda militants had decided at a recent meeting in Pakistan to focus on attack plans in Turkey and northern Afghanistan.

A Turkish cell of al-Qaeda was held responsible for four suicide bombings in Istanbul in November 2003, the deadliest terrorist attacks in Turkey so far.

The suicide drivers detonated truck bombs first at two synagogues, and five days later at the British consulate and a British bank, killing a total of 63 people, injuring hundreds and causing widespread damage.

Seven men were jailed for life over the bombings in 2007, among them a Syrian national who masterminded and financed the attacks.

In January, a suspected al-Qaeda militant was killed and three others captured in a shootout with the police in Istanbul after the group attempted to rob a post office. — AFP