ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — Two Arabic-language newspapers
received separate statements yesterday claiming the Al-Qaida
terrorist network carried out the car bombings outside two Istanbul
synagogues — attacks that killed 23 people.

Kate Green
AP PHOTO
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom places a wreath during a visit to bombing scene outside of the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul.

A statement received by the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi,
a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, said a unit
of al-Qaida executed the attack on Saturday because it learned that
agents of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad were in the
synagogues.

Abdel Bari Atwan, the newspaper’s editor, told the
pan-Arab cable station Al-Jazeera that the claim was received by
e-mail from the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigades, which is suspected of
links to Al-Qaida and which has sent at least three similar claims
to the paper regarding previous attacks.

“The Mujahedeen of Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades … after
monitoring Mossad agents and confirming that five of the agents
were present in two synagogues in central Istanbul, carried out
their deadly blow,” the statement said.

Another e-mailed claim of responsibility sent to the
London-based weekly Al-Majalla said al-Qaida carried out the
Istanbul attacks as well as the car bomb outside Italian police
headquarters in Nasariyah, Iraq, on Nov. 12 that killed 19 Italians
and more than a dozen Iraqis. Al-Majalla, which does not publish
until Friday, provided excerpts of the e-mail to the AP.

The newspaper said the claim received yesterday was signed by an
al-Qaida operative identified as Abu Mohammed al-Ablaj, whom
officials in Washington have said in the past is believed linked to
the terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden.

The sophisticated attacks on the synagogues used pickup trucks
stuffed with nearly identical explosives detonated minutes apart,
likely by suicide bombers, officials said.

Israeli intelligence and explosives experts have teamed with
Turkish investigators to investigate the bombings, which wounded
more than 300 people, both Jews at the synagogues and Muslim
bystanders on the streets.

Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu has said an
international connection is “very likely.” However, the
interior ministry declined to comment on the reported claims of
responsibility.

Forensic workers pieced together body parts and searched for
clues amid the wreckage from blasts that Israeli experts said were
stronger than most bombings they see at home.

Officials found two bodies fitted with wire, and one of them
matched partial remains found in one of the attack cars, media
reported, suggesting that the explosions were set off by suicide
bombers and not by remote control.

Last week, the Al-Majalla newspaper received a claim from
al-Ablaj stating al-Qaida was responsible for the attack Nov. 8 on
a housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed 17 people,
mostly Arabs, and wounded scores of people.

Yesterday’s e-mail from al-Ablaj warned that attacks will
be carried out against Japan, which was to send troops to Iraq but
decided not to after the Italian bombing. It promised more attacks
on other targets associated with Israel and the United States.

“The attacks against Jews and America will follow. Let
America and Israel cry for their dead from today and the
destruction that they will suffer,” his e-mail said

There was no way to independently confirm the authenticity of
either claim of responsibility.

The al-Masri group also issued a claim for the bombing of the
U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in August. U.S. officials in
Washington said at the time that they could not authenticate the
claim and it remained unclear if the group exists or is linked
al-Qaida.

In its statement received yesterday, it warned of further
attacks and demanded that the United States release Arab prisoners
held at Guantanamo in Cuba and stop making war on Muslim states. It
also warned President Bush that attacks would be directed at the
United States itself.

“There is more to come. By God, the Jews of the world will
regret that their (men) thought of invading the lands of
Muslims,” the statement said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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