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.