- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2003

ISTANBUL — Two deadly synagogue bombings were carried out by Turkish militants inspired by — and perhaps working for — the al Qaeda terror network, Turkish authorities concluded yesterday.

If al Qaeda did have a role, it would confirm suspicions that Osama bin Laden’s reach extends to NATO’s sole Muslim member.

As the government wrapped up DNA tests on the remains of the two suicide bombers, hundreds of Jewish and Muslim mourners buried the six Jews who died in Saturday’s blasts, which also killed 17 Muslims and wounded more than 300 people.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that the bombers, who detonated their explosives-laden trucks outside Istanbul’s main synagogue and a second one three miles away, were Turks and that they had Turkish accomplices in planning the attack.

“It will be determined whether these people worked directly with al Qaeda or are just sympathizers,” Mr. Gul said by telephone from Stockholm.

Bin Laden’s terror network took responsibility for the bombings Sunday in messages to two Arabic-language newspapers. It was not possible to authenticate the claim.

Mr. Gul said results of the DNA tests on the remains of the bombers would be made public soon.

But newspapers reported that four suspected members of a Turkish group thought to be linked to al Qaeda — two bombers and two accomplices — had been identified.

The Neve Shalom bomber was 29-year-old Mesut Cabuk, who stayed in Iran between 2000 and 2001, all major newspapers reported yesterday. Police said his Turkish passport was found at the scene.

The Beth Israel bomber was identified as 22-year-old Gokhan Elaltuntas, newspapers said. The Daily Hurriyet identified their accomplices as 27-year-old Azad Ekinci, a schoolmate of Cabuk’s, and Feridun Ugurlu.

Ekinci and Ugurlu fled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Oct. 28 before the bombings, Hurriyet reported.

Police said the suspects were members of a little-known group identified as Beyyiat el-Imam, whose name means “Allegiance to the Imam” in Arabic, Hurriyet said.

The organization was formed in the al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and is reportedly led by a Saudi cleric identified as Abu Musab. He is believed to have crossed into Iran since the Taliban regime was ousted from Afghanistan.

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