Istanbul was rocked by two explosions on Thursday, only days after twin suicide bombings against Jewish targets in the Turkish city. Meanwhile, Germany’s intelligence service warned Islamic terrorism may be on the rise.
The street was ravished outside the British Consulate in Istanbul.
At least 26 people have died and more than 400 were injured in the blasts, which damaged the British consulate and the headquarters of the HSBC bank in Istanbul. The British consul was among the confirmed dead. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the explosions bore all the signs of attacks by the al Qaeda Islamic terrorist network.
"It’s too early to say who carried out these attacks, but they have every hallmark of al Qaeda," Straw told the British House of Commons. "A number of British and Turkish and other people have died. A number of the British consulate staff are still unaccounted for."
Apparently the bombings against British targets were timed to coincide with U.S. President George Bush's visit to Britain. Both Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the attacks on Thursday.
"Someone wants to convey a very clear message that will go out not only to Britain but to the United States," Gustav
Lindstrom at the Institute of Security Studies in Paris told Reuters. "Many people will read into this a connection with Britain's effort in Iraq and its special relationship to the United States."
The bombings on Thursday come less than a week after other deadly terrorist attacks in Istanbul. On Saturday, two trucks packed with homemade explosives detonated outside the Beit Israel and Neve Shalom synagogues in Istanbul, killing 26 people and wounding hundreds more.
The head of Germany’s intelligence service (BND) on Wednesday warned the first attacks in Istanbul showed international terrorism was on the rise again.
European radicals being recruited
Speaking to Germany’s ARD television, BND director August Hanning also said that Islamic radicals were currently being recruited from all over Europe to join the fight against U.S.-led occupying forces in Iraq. He said that the increasing violence in Iraq could also evolve into the kind of guerilla warfare endured by the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
“There are reports of recruiting going on in Europe, especially in countries such as Britain and Bosnia,” said Hanning. “We also have evidence that Islamic radicals living in Germany have already left for Iraq.”
On average, the coalition forces in Iraq have to endure almost 30 attacks per day and Hanning said there was evidence that some of these attacks are being professionally masterminded by members of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.
Hanning said German intelligence still believes there was no link in pre-war Iraq between the regime of Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, but added that the country was quickly becoming a focal point for the group’s Jihad against Western civilization.
In a statement issued from aboard a plane en route to the United States, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder condemned the bombings. "The attacks don't only target Turkey and Britain... but also our form of state, society and living, our basic values like democracy, freedom and human rights. Thus, the attacks hurt us all."