- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2003

ISTANBUL — Syria handed over 22 suspects to Turkey yesterday in connection with four suicide bombings in Istanbul, the semiofficial Anatolia news agency reported.

The suspects, all Turks, reportedly fled the country after the attacks, which targeted two synagogues in near-simultaneous bombings Nov. 15 and the British Consulate and a British bank five days later. A total of 61 persons were killed in the attacks.

Citing a statement from paramilitary police, Anatolia said the suspects included Hilmi Tuglaoglu, a close associate of Azat Ekinci, a central suspect in the blasts.

News reports have named Mr. Ekinci as a key accomplice in the synagogue bombings, saying he used fake identities and cash to buy pickup trucks that then were packed with explosives. The reports said Mr. Ekinci had traveled to Iran, received military and explosives training in Pakistan between 1997 and 1999 and fought in Chechnya.

There were no details about Mr. Tuglaoglu’s suspected involvement, though police said his wife also was brought to Turkey from Syria.

A Turkish court on Saturday charged a key suspect captured last week with trying to overthrow Turkey’s “constitutional order” — a crime equivalent to treason. The first major suspect to be charged in the attacks, he is accused of having given the order to bomb the Beth Israel synagogue.

Police identified the suspect by his initials, Y.P., but nearly all major Turkish newspapers said he was Yusuf Polat. The daily Radikal said he was born in 1974 in Turkey’s southeastern province of Malatya.

The daily Milliyet and other newspapers reported yesterday that Mr. Polat and others confessed to belonging to a 10-man cell that was an extension of the al Qaeda terror network. Police also had evidence that the attackers received support domestically and from abroad, Milliyet reported.

Newspapers reported that members of the cell, including several of the suicide bombers, had met while training in Afghanistan, and that Mr. Polat fought in Afghanistan.

Police refused to comment on the reports. They said only that Y.P. was arrested Tuesday at an Iranian border crossing in eastern Agri province, and that he had gone to the Beth Israel synagogue before the attack and given the order to go ahead.

The daily Hurriyet said Y.P. was tracked down through his cell-phone records after reportedly calling a suicide bomber minutes before the attack. The Anatolia news agency reported yesterday that materials used to make bombs were found in a house in Istanbul that he used.

Authorities have charged another 20 persons in connection with the blasts, but for lesser roles. All the suicide bombers were Turks.

Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler announced yesterday that the attack against the HSBC bank’s Istanbul headquarters was carried out by Ilyas Kuncak, born in 1956 in the capital, Ankara. Anatolia had earlier named the bomber as Mevlut Ugur and newspapers previously named two other suspected militants.

Mr. Guler also said that Feridun Ugurlu carried out the attack against the British Consulate. Mr. Ugurlu is believed to have fought with Islamist radicals in Afghanistan and Chechnya and his role had been reported widely by Turkish newspapers.


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