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Syria hands over 22 suspects in Turkey bombings

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Monday, December 1, 2003< /FONT>

ANKARA For the first time, Syria has surrendered to Turkey insurgents suspected of being involved in an Al Qaida attack.

All suspects were identified as Turkish nationals.

The regime of President Bashar Assad has handed over 22 people suspected of participating in the twin suicide attacks in Istanbul in November. The suspects were said to have fled from Turkey to neighboring Syria and included aides to the architect of the strikes.

The semi-official Anatolia news agency reported that several of those detained and extradited by Syria were connected to Azad Ekinci, Middle East Newsline reported.

Ekinci, who escaped Turkey, was said to have been the key planner of the Al Qaida attacks and bought the two pickup trucks used in the bombings.

The Al Qaida attacks on synagogues in Istanbul resulted in the deaths of 29 people on Nov. 15. Five days later, Al Qaida was attributed with another set of car bombings that killed 32 people and destroyed the offices of a leading British bank and the British consulate.

Turkish officials said the man believed to have ordered the synagogue attacks has been captured as he sought to escape to Iran. The suspect was identified as Yusef Polat, 29, linked with Al Qaida, and officials said he directed the suicide bombers to the two synagogues.

The Syrian extradition of the Turkish suspects marks the first major step in security cooperation between Ankara and Damascus. In 2002, Syria and Turkey signed several agreements regarding security and military cooperation that was meant to end Syria's harboring of Kurdish insurgents. Since then, the two countries have eased security restrictions along their border and cleared mines along the Turkish side.

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