Turkey Arrests 6 Suspects in Istanbul Synagogue Attacks
Authorities arrested six people Wednesday in connection with the suicide bombings of two Istanbul synagogues.
The suspects include relatives of two suspected accomplices in the bombings, the Anatolian news agency said. A Turkish court charged five with “attempting to overthrow the constitutional structure,” which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. A sixth person was charged with “helping illegal organizations,” punishable by five years in prison, Anatolian said.
No trial date has been set.
Two suicide attackers, both Turks, blew up pickup trucks outside the synagogues on Saturday, killing 23 people and the bombers. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that the two had visited Afghanistan in the past and that investigators were looking for links to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler identified the suicide bombers as Mesut Cabuk, 29, and Gokhan Elaltintas, 22, both from the southeastern city of Bingol.
The city is a hotbed of the underground Islamic group Hezbollah, which is not linked to the Lebanon-based group with the same name. It was not clear whether the two attackers had ties to the group.
The daily newspaper Hurriyet, citing police, said Wednesday that the suspects were members of Beyyiat el-Imam, a little-known group formed in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. The group’s name is Arabic for “Allegiance to the Imam.”
Al Qaeda claimed responsibility Sunday for the bombings in messages to two Arabic-language newspapers, but it was not possible to authenticate those claims. An outlawed Turkish radical group called the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front also claimed responsibility, but Turkish authorities said the attack was too sophisticated to have been carried out by that group.
Hurriyet identified the suicide bombers’ alleged accomplices as 27-year-old Azad Ekinci, a schoolmate of Cabuk, and Feridun Ugurlu. Ekinci and Ugurlu traveled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates before the bombings, Hurriyet said.
Opposition leaders, meanwhile, criticized the government for backing off from a nationwide crackdown on militant Islamic groups after coming to power a year ago, and releasing hundreds of Islamic militants from prison under a 4-month-old amnesty.
About 130 Islamic militants who belonged to Hezbollah have been released in southeastern Turkey under the amnesty, a judiciary official said Wednesday.