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Wednesday, January 20, 2010     GET REAL

Turkish agents nab Al Qaida chief after raiding safe houses in three cities

ANKARA — Authorities in Turkey have reported the arrest of the head of Al Qaida's network in the nation.   

Officials said Turkish security forces raided seven Al Qaida safe houses in Ankara on Jan. 18 and captured a man identified as the head of the Islamic insurgency network in Turkey. In all, they said, 13 Al Qaida operatives were captured in three districts of Turkey's capital.

"At this point, we are checking to confirm the man's [suspected Al Qaida chief's] identity," an official said.

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The suspected Al Qaida chief was identified as Serdar El Basa, also known as Abu Zer, Middle East Newsline reported. El Basa, said to have four wives and 15 children, had been forced to flee Turkey amid accusations within Al Qaida that he misappropriated funds for the Islamic revolt in Russia's Chechnya province. By 2008, however, El Basa was believed to have returned to Turkey.

Officials said the raids of the safe houses marked a nationwide crackdown against Al Qaida. They said the operation began in January and included raids and arrests of suspected Al Qaida strongholds in Adana, Istanbul and Ankara in which about 35 people have been detained. Many of the detainees were said to have been trained by Al Qaida in Afghanistan.

In Ankara, police and security forces stormed seven safe houses on Jan. 18. Officials said weapons, bullets, explosive devices, passports, forged documents and medical equipment were found in the targeted buildings.

"The medical equipment were being prepared to ship to Al Qaida in Afghanistan," the official said.

Officials said El Basa was believed to have been in contact with the Al Qaida leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan and responsible for logistics, fundraising and operations. They said he also played a major role in recruitment for the network in poor urban neighborhoods throughout Turkey.

"We believe Al Qaida has established cells in most major cities in Turkey," the official said.

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