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Synagogue Bombers Likely Turkish Nationals with al-Qaida Links, say Officials
Amberin Zaman
VOA, Ankara
18 Nov 2003, 20:33 UTC

Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, says the men who carried out Saturday's attacks against two Istanbul synagogues were likely Turkish nationals who sympathized with the al-Qaida terror network.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Foreign Minister Gul said it is too early to determine whether the four suspects in the bombings were actual members of al-Qaida, or merely sympathizers. Mr. Gul said investigations show they had what he termed the same mindset as al-Qaida. Mr. Gul told the AP results of DNA tests carried out on relatives of the four suspects would provide confirmation of their involvement.

Turkish media on Tuesday widely reported that the four men implicated in the synagogue bombings had received training in Iran and Pakistan. A Turkish prosecutor has since ordered a black-out on all news relating to the investigation. At least 25 people were killed and more than 300 were injured when suicide bombers driving explosives-laden pickup trucks pulled up nearly simultaneously in front of two synagogues in central Istanbul during worship services Saturday morning.

Thousands of mourners - Muslims and Jews - gathered at Istanbul's Ulus cemetery Tuesday as six members of the Jewish community who died in the attacks were laid to rest. Prominent Turkish politicians, Western diplomats and Israel's parliament speaker, Reuven Rivlin, were present at the funeral. Mr. Rivlin said Turkish officials told him that Turkish terrorists educated in Afghanistan and trained in Iran had carried out the attack.

On Sunday, the London-based Al Quds-Al Arabi newspaper said it had received a statement from a group linked to al-Qaida claiming responsibility for the Istanbul blasts. The group, called the Brigades of the Martyr Abu Hafz al-Masri, also claimed responsibility for the August attack on the U.N. offices in Baghdad, which killed 23 people. The group said it targeted the Istanbul synagogues because they were frequented by Israeli intelligence agents.