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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 05:07 GMT
Turkey probes al-Qaeda bomb claim
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visit a victim
Prime Minister Erdogan says justice will be done
Turkish officials are investigating claims that the al-Qaeda network carried out Saturday's attacks against synagogues in Istanbul.

On Sunday the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds said it had received a statement from al-Qaeda in an email.

It said the group targeted the synagogues because Israeli agents were working there, Al-Quds Editor Abdel-Bari Atwan told the BBC.

At least 23 people were killed and more than 300 wounded in the bombings.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to call a cabinet meeting on Monday to discuss the attacks.

"Our security teams, our intelligence services have to work to determine the extent of truth of the claims," he said.

Hard to check

On Sunday Mr Atwan told the Arabic satellite TV channel al-Jazeera that the statement was from an al-Qaeda division called Brigades of the Martyr Abu Hafz al-Masri.

That division had claimed responsibility for the attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad - which killed 23 people in August.

Analysts say it may be impossible independently to confirm that the latest statement comes from al-Qaeda.

An earlier claim to the attacks was made by a Turkish group called the Islamic Front of Raiders of the Great Orient.

But the BBC's Richard Galpin in Istanbul says Turkey was quick to point the finger at international radical groups.

The level of sophistication required to carry out the attacks was beyond any local organisation, our correspondent says.

Victims mourned

The bombs, which went off minutes apart outside synagogues in the districts of Beyoglu and Sisli, badly damaged both buildings and scattered wreckage over a wide area.

According to Turkish media reports, the attacks were caused by suicide bombers driving two trucks, each loaded with 400 kilograms of explosives.

TURKISH JEWISH COMMUNITY
About 20,000 Jews, mainly in Istanbul
Influx after expulsion from Spain in 1492
17 synagogues in Istanbul

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom visited the bombed synagogues, accompanied by the mayor of Istanbul and the city's chief rabbi.

He laid wreaths at the sites as Turks threw down white carnations in a sign of condolence.

Our correspondent says his visit was clearly intended to signal that Israel and Turkey would co-operate closely in the aftermath of the bombings.

Most of those killed in the attacks were Muslim Turks, who lived, worked or were passing by the synagogues when the explosions occurred.

Six Jews were also among the dead.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Richard Galpin
"The Turkish government... did believe it was an international group involved"


Al-Quds' editor, Abdel-Bari Atwan
"Usually they take responsibility for these kind of attacks"



SEE ALSO:
Suicide theory for Turkey attack
16 Nov 03  |  Europe
World leaders denounce bombings
15 Nov 03  |  Europe
Turkish press aghast at bombings
16 Nov 03  |  Europe
Turkey blast wreaks carnage
15 Nov 03  |  Europe
Tense times for Turkey's Jews
15 Nov 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Turkey
12 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Turkey car bombs: Your reaction
15 Nov 03  |  Have Your Say


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