Turks claim victory against terror gang

The governor of Istanbul said yesterday that Turkish police have dismantled a group of alleged al-Qa'ida militants suspected of suicide bombings that killed 62 people in Istanbul last month. But he said that several leading members were believed to have fled abroad.

Authorities have captured most of the alleged militants and seized about 500kg of explosives, including the military explosive RDX, Governor Muammer Guler said. "These explosives were going to be used in other attacks. Their discovery prevented that."

Istanbul's police chief, Celalettin Cerrah, said enough explosives had been seized to make four truck bombs.

Mr Guler said police also discovered more details about last month's attacks, which targeted two synagogues, a London-based bank and the British Consulate. "All dimensions of the attacks from the planning to activating have been exposed by the Istanbul police. They were carried out by the elements of al-Qa'ida who were trying to create a structure in Turkey."

Mr Guler said about 160 people had been detained and 35 of them had so far been charged with involvement in the bombing. Ten other suspects, including a suspected key member identified as Harun Ilhan, were expected to be charged.

Mr Guler said five or seven leading members of al-Qa'ida's structure in Turkey were at large and were believed to be abroad. News reports have suggested that some members could be in Iraq, but Mr Guler said it was not clear where they were.

Mr Guler said the group accused of the bombings was no longer a threat. "There is no need to fear. Any attack by this group here has totally been prevented. This group is totally dismantled."

It was not clear whether there were any other al-Qa'ida cells operating in Turkey.

Mr Guler said al-Qa'ida had been organising in Turkey for the past year or two. He said most suspected members who were detained underwent training in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Along with the explosives that were found, police seized five assault rifles, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, 12 shotguns and two single-shot "pen guns" during the raids.

Mr Guler said normal security measures were being implemented for New Year's Eve. A leaked police document earlier this week warned that terrorists may be planning attacks against US, Israeli and "eastern" targets in Turkey in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

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