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2 Syrians held in Turkey under suspected Al-Qaida ties



Published: Thu, August 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



One of them men allegedly plotted to attack Israeli cruise ships.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkish police detained two Syrians on suspicion of links to Al-Qaida, including one believed to be a go-between for the terrorist network and a Turkish cell that carried out deadly 2003 bombings in Istanbul.

News of the detentions came after more than 5,000 Israelis on five cruise ships were diverted from Turkish ports to Cyprus in recent days amid intelligence that a terror attack was imminent.

Turkish media reported Wednesday that the Syrian suspected of being an Al-Qaida go-between was one of 10 people detained for allegedly plotting to attack Israeli cruise ships docking at vacation resorts on the Mediterranean coast, but police later denied the reports.

Israel urged its citizens Monday not to visit beach resorts on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, with one official saying that although Turkey was cracking down on terror threats the travel warning would remain in force.

Emmanuel Nahshon, the Israeli deputy ambassador in Ankara, stressed the warning did not apply to the entire country.

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Police confirmed that one Syrian citizen who was detained was suspected of having facilitated communication between Al-Qaida and Turkish extremists responsible for the 2003 bombings of two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank. The attacks killed some 60 people.

The suspect also was believed to have helped the bombing masterminds flee the country and to have remained in contact with Al-Qaida operatives who are planning future attacks, Turkish police officials added.

The officials, however, could not confirm that those attacks included plots to attack Israeli tourists. Turkish civil servants are only allowed to speak on the record with prior authorization.

Police said the Syrian was detained in Antalya, a beach resort that is so popular with Israelis that there are direct flights from Tel Aviv.

CNN-Turk television later reported that he was detained in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit the overwhelmingly Kurdish city later this week.

A second Syrian was arrested Wednesday and charged with membership in Al-Qaida, the semiofficial Anatolia news agency reported.




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