Turkish intelligence sees Al Qaida in Iran behind synagogues attack

Monday, November 17, 2003

ANKARA Turkey believes Al Qaida agents in Iran were involved in the suicide strikes Saturday against two synagogues in Istanbul.

Turkish intelligence sources said early evidence from the car bombings against the synagogues, in which at least 23 people were killed, pointed to sponsorship in neighboring Iran.

The sources said the extent of planning and logistics appear to be the work of Al Qaida operatives in Iran.

Turkish intelligence received two alerts from the Mossad of an Al Qaida attack on Turkish synagogues. The Turkish daily Radikal said the alerts came in April and September. [In Jerusalem, Israeli officials denied that Israel provided intelligence information to Ankara about possible Al Qaida targets in Turkey, Middle East Newsline reported.]

Investigators said each of the truck bombs that blew up on Saturday contained 350 kilograms of explosives. They said the bombers appeared to have been killed when they detonated the explosives.

"We were informed that both vehicles paused and exploded in front of the synagogues," Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said.

The intelligence sources said the attacks could have been carried out by Al Qaida or the Iranian-backed Hizbullah group. The sources Al Qaida operations chief Seif Al Adel was believed to have organized the attack from somewhere in Iran.

Turkish officials have acknowledged that intelligence services failed to respond to warnings of an attack. They said the government would launch a review.

"If we have weaknesses in intelligence, we have to review everything anew," Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said. "If our staff has deficencies and needs, we have to review all those."

On Sunday, Al Qaida was said to have relayed claims of responsibility for the Istanbul bombings. The London-based Al Quds Al Arabi and the Al Majallah weekly received the Al Qaida claim.

"The attacks against Jews and America will follow," the Al Qaida message sent in an e-mail said. "Let America and Israel cry for their dead from today and the destruction that they will suffer"."

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