Weapons, explosives and other evidence from the jihadists’ lair (EPA)
May 4, 2004 — A terrorist bomb plot to kill President Bush was thwarted yesterday when Turkish police nabbed 25 members of an al Qaeda-linked cell who planned to assassinate world leaders in Istanbul next month – then flee to Iraq.
Investigators yesterday announced that they seized 16 of the men in the Turkish town of Bursa last Thursday, along with guns, explosives, forged ID documents, bomb-making booklets – and 4,000 CDs featuring training instructions from Osama bin Laden.
Turkish TV said three of the suspects had been planning for as long as a year to blow themselves up with a bomb that would also kill Bush and other Western leaders.
The plot had reached a very advanced stage and terrorists had begun testing explosives, The Times of London reported.
Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and dozens of other world leaders are scheduled to attend a NATO summit in Istanbul on June 27-28.
The historic meeting will be the first since NATO expanded to 26 member states.
The 16 suspects, all Turkish nationals, are members of Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group based in northern Iraq, said Bursa province Governor Oguz Kagan Koksal.
Remember, Ansar al-Islam is the cuddly Mullah Krekar’s group.
The group, tied to al Qaeda, is believed responsible for twin homicide bombings in Irbil, Iraq, that killed 109 people in February. …
Yesterday, nine of the 16 were brought before a special Turkish court that handles terrorism cases and were charged with “membership in an illegal organization.”
They face up to 10 years in jail on that charge. It’s not clear if the other seven who were detained will face charges.
Nine additional suspects, seized in separate raid in Istanbul last week, were released after it was determined they were not members of Ansar al-Islam.
Koksal said the suspects were “in the middle of an attack plan.” He gave no details of their capture.
Equipment and bombmaking instructions were seized from suspects’ homes, as were forged identity documents and CDs that served as training manuals, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Guns and videotapes showing bin Laden training militants at a camp in Afghanistan were also found.
Turkish TV aired videotape of the group’s leader, Alpaslan Toprak, grinning as he was being led away by police.
Turkish police have been on high alert because the summit would be an ideal terrorist target – and because 69 suspects charged in al Qaeda bomb attacks that killed 60 people at a bank, two synagogues and the British Consulate go on trial this month.