This AP profile of Istanbul suicide bomber Gokhan Elaltuntas says that
his path to radicalism began four years before he blew himself up in front of a synagogue, part of what appeared to be a coordinated chain of deadly suicide attacks.
The article goes to Bingol, Elaltuntas's Turkish hometown, to inform us that
while devoutly Muslim, many in this town in Turkey's overwhelmingly Kurdish southeast harshly condemned the attacks after learning that two of the four suicide bombers grew up in Bingol and a third was from the area.
One Bingol resident even made the obligatory crime story "He was always quiet" statement:
"We went partridge hunting together. I still cannot believe how such a quiet person could have been involved in an incident like this."
Indeed, how could it have happened? A clue comes from the fact that
a illegal Islamic group, Hezbollah, has a presence in Bingol, a town of 100,000 people where crowds of jobless men kill time at cafes sipping tea. . . . Bingol was where Elaltuntas met two Islamic extremists, Azad Ekinci and Mesut Cabuk, about four years ago while in his late teens, the childhood friend said. The friend said the three opened an Internet cafe on the town's main street. The cafe is now a focal point of the investigation into the twin attacks on Istanbul's Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues on Nov. 15.
Another friend of Elaltuntas said that the bomber was
withdrawn and religious - but not a radical until he met Cabuk and Ekinci. The three wore beards, common among fundamentalists but conspicuous in this moderate Muslim country, where many men are clean-shaven.
How did Cabuk and Ekinci recruit him? Referring to another Bingol radical Muslim, a Bingol resident said:
Azad traveled to Afghanistan ... in 1995 or 1996," he said. "When he came back he looked very Islamic, he wore Islamic clothes and had grown a beard. Whenever he spoke he was giving examples from the Quran."
Remember also that according to another Bingol resident,
"Because families in Bingol bring up their children from a young age according to Islamic principles, once they reach a certain age they join Islamic groups and they take part in acts of terror."
Examples from the Qur'an? Islamic principles? How could these people have missed all the peaceful passages? Dr. Badawi, call your office. It is these men you must convince that Islam is peaceful; as crucial as this task is, you will find it considerably more difficult than convincing Westerners who know little of Islam.