Church service remembers victims of Istanbul suicide bombings

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The Independent Online

Three days after twin truck bombs killed 30 people in Istanbul, including Roger Short, the British consul general, people crowded into a neo-Gothic Anglican church in the heart of the city to remember the dead.

Three days after twin truck bombs killed 30 people in Istanbul, including Roger Short, the British consul general, people crowded into a neo-Gothic Anglican church in the heart of the city to remember the dead.

The Rev Ian Sherwood, the British consulate's chaplain, condemned "the fanaticism that is at the heart of this evil. The overthrowing of goodness does not succeed," he told the congregation inside Christ Church, as Mr Short's widow, Victoria, and their three children sat in the front pew.

"We start this morning to move forward. I know you are crushed but we have to go out and move forward ... We commend the souls of the people we have loved and respected to the kingdom of light ... we do believe in forgiveness, in the gospel of love," he said.

"The grave is denied victory, because we will not be defeated ... In the midst of our rubble is the resurrection. We will not be conquered, in death or in life."

Although he spoke of the warm links between Turks and expatriates in the city, he said: "There is a lack of recognition of what is at the heart of this. Not enough Islamic teachers are prepared to stand up and say enough is enough."

He added after the service: "I am appalled that I have not received any statements from a Muslim teacher anywhere in the world to express sorrow or reconciliation. It is a real weakness that has to be addressed."

The Directorate of Religious Affairs, which controls Turkey's mosques, has published a sermon to be delivered in all mosques tomorrow. "Terrorism, violence and anarchy have nothing to do with Islam," it says. "Our duty is to love one another, and live like brothers in unity."

Outside Christ Church, Sir Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to Turkey, hinted that Istanbul's British consulate may eventually reopen at its bombed premises, an imposing grey stone structure designed by Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

"I've got experts coming out to make that judgement," he said. "My gut feeling is that the big house withstood things pretty well and is sufficiently back from the road ... We might want to put the entrance somewhere else."

After the 11 September 2001 attacks on America, the US consulate in the city, which was close to the British building, was relocated to a secure site 4.5 miles away. The roads surrounding the British consulate are normally open to all traffic. Mr Short and his staff were working in temporary offices behind the entrance gates, awaiting the completion of refurbishment of the main building, when the truck bomb crashed into the gates and exploded. Twelve people were killed including two Turkish policemen.

Mr Short had been praised in the local press for refusing, after the two synagogue bombs last week, to order the closure of the roads bordering the consulate. He was said to have argued that to do so would hurt nearby businesses.

The Turkish government was reported to have ordered improved co-ordination between the MIT, the national intelligence organisation, and the police. They were said to have identified mistakes that gave the terrorists time to stockpile bomb-making materials and plan their campaign of suicide attacks, four in six days, that took more than 50 lives.

Turkish newspapers have highlighted the alleged failings. Murat Yetkin, a columnist with the liberal newspaper Radikal, wrote yesterday: "The state's intelligence organisation had sufficient information on hand to prevent these attacks, or at least to lessen the impact of the damage.However, preventive measures could not be taken because piecemeal information in the hands of the various intelligence units could not be put together."

When Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government swept to power one year ago, it replaced many of the existing police and intelligence staff.

The Turkish media have named Azad Ekinci, 27, and Feridun Ugurlu, in his 20s, as the suicide bombers but this has not been confirmed. Over the weekend, investigators were reported to have travelled to the south-eastern town of Bingol, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism and Ekinci's hometown. Computers owned by Ekinci's brother had been seized and DNA tests were done on relatives of the suspected bombers.

Eighteen people were arrested in three districts of Istanbul on Friday in connection with the bombings but Mr Erdogan admitted yesterday that he did not yet know who was behind the atrocities.

"We have some evidence that indicates there are religious motives behind this," Mr Erdogan said. "But is this an al-Qa'ida affiliate? We are not 100 per cent sure."