Syria hands over suspects who fled after quadruple suicide bombings in Turkey

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The Independent Online

Twenty-two people suspected of involvement in the four Istanbul suicide bombing were handed over to Turkish authorities by Syria yesterday. The suspects are said to have fled Turkey after last month's attacks on two synagogues, the British consulate and a British bank, which killed 61 people.

Anatolia, a semi-official Turkish news agency, said the 22 included Hilmi Tuglaoglu, who is said to be close to Azat Ekinci, a central suspect in the blasts. A statement by the paramilitary police said Mr Tuglaoglu's wife was also brought to Turkey from Syria.

The Governor of Istanbul, Muammer Guler, named the chief suspect for the attack on the HSBC bank as Ilyas Kuncak, born in Ankara. Anatolia had named the bomber as Mevlut Ugur and newspapers named two other suspected militants. Mr Guler also said a Feridun Ugurlu committed the attack on the British consulate. Mr Ugurlu is believed to have fought in Afghanistan and Chechnya and his role had widely been reported by Turkish newspapers. Mr Ekinci has been named by Turkey as an accomplice in the synagogue bombings, with claims he used fake identities and cash to buy the pick-up trucks containing the bombs. Reports said Mr Ekinci had travelled to Iran, been militarily trained in explosives in Pakistan between 1997 and 1999 and had fought in Chechnya.

Turkish police say a man charged with treason for allegedly ordering the suicide bombing of one of the synagogues has confessed to ties to al-Qa'ida. They did not identify the man, caught last week as he tried to slip into Iran on a false passport, but the Turkish press yesterday named him as Yusuf Polat, a 29-year-old from the south-eastern province of Malatya.

Reports said Mr Polat had confessed to belonging to a 10-man cell that was tied to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist network. Bomb-making equipment has been found at a house used by him in Istanbul. Several members of the cell, all of whom were Turkish, had been trained in Afghan-istan, newspapers said, and received the order to commit the attacks from al-Qa'ida in June.

Halil Yilmaz, Istanbul's deputy police chief, said the suspect had travelled to the Beth Israel synagogue on the day of the bombing and gave the final order for the attack. Reports said he was tracked through his mobile phone records after allegedly phoning one of the suicide bombers moments before the attack. On Saturday, Turkish television showed police escorting the man to the synagogue where he said to have described the bombing.

Turkish authorities have identified the suspects in the synagogue suicide bombers as Mesut Cabuk, 29, and Gokhan Elaltuntas, 22, both from the town of Bingol in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern region of Turkey.

The station also said police believed the bombers to belong to Turkish Hezbollah and an Islamic group called Beyyiat el-Imam, believed to have links to Ansar al-Islam, an Iraqi group US officials suspect of many of the attacks on its troops. Governor Guler dismissed that claim as wrong.