I gather that Turkey's refusal to let us pass through to open a northern front in Iraq earlier this year, was an attempt to protect themselves from this sort of thing. Looks like it didnt help them much.www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,103612,00.html
Istanbul Truck-Bomb Attack Kills 25
Thursday, November 20, 2003
ISTANBUL, Turkey — At least 25 people were killed and more than 400 wounded Thursday after trucks packed with explosives blew up near the British consulate and the headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank.
A man calling the semiofficial Anatolia news agency claimed that Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic Great Eastern Raiders' Front, or IBDA-C, jointly claimed responsibility for attacks.
Currently, the U.S. State Department knows of no Americans killed or hurt in the blast. According to a Reuters report, Istanbul's government said 14 were killed at the British consulate.
The bombings, which occurred five minutes apart, at about 11 a.m., came days after two synagogue bombings there and coincided with President Bush's visit to London. Television reports initially said up to five blasts, but Turkish authorities later confirmed only two.
"We see their utter contempt for innocent life. The terrorists hope to intimidate, they hope to demoralize. They are not going to succeed," Bush said at a news conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Sky Turk reporter Mustafa Azizoglu told Fox News "this is not an ordinary attack," and said "this is the eleventh of September for Istanbul."
Azizoglu added that the explosions were "trying to target Western financial institutions."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the attacks as "clearly appalling acts of terrorism" and he suggested a link to the Al Qaeda network.
"I'm afraid it has all the hallmarks of international terrorism practiced by Al Qaeda," he said in London.
Turkish authorities said the same groups were behind Saturday's nearly simultaneous synagogue bombings in Istanbul, which killed 23 people and the two attackers.
"It seems the attacks have been conducted with the same barbaric methods," Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, who serves as government spokesman, told reporters.
Turkish media reported the attacks were carried out by homicide bombers, but the governor's office said only that attackers blew up explosive-laden pickup trucks.
'There Must Be No Holding Back'
The first blast was at the Turkish headquarters of HSBC, the world's second-largest international bank, shearing off the facade of the 18-floor building and shattering the windows of nearby skyscrapers.
Body parts, the charred shells of cars and broken glass were scattered around a 9-foot-deep crater that was carved in the streets outside the bank. Water gushed out of the top floors of the building.
Bystanders bloodied and covered in dust looked dazed as they walked past lines of ambulances. Several people helped carry the limp bodies of victims.
Another bomb ripped off the wall surrounding the garden of the British consulate in the downtown Beyoglu district.
Straw said three or four British employees from the consulate had not reported to a roll call following the blasts. British consul-general Roger Short was missing, the private NTV news channel says. A U.S. official in Turkey told Fox News that there is no confirmation of this report yet.
"Once again we are reminded of the evil these terrorists pose to people everywhere and to our way of life," Blair said. "Once again we must affirm that in the face of this terrorism there must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace, in attacking it wherever and whenever we can and in defeating it utterly."
Blair also reaffirmed his commitment to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
"It should not lessen ... our commitment to Iraq," he said. "On the contrary, it shows how important it is to carry on until terrorism is defeated there as well."
One witness was traveling on a bus near HSBC when the explosion occurred.
"I thought somebody hit our bus from the back, then I saw black smoke rising. Cars were damaged all around us. I saw the charred body of a driver at the wheel," said a sobbing Mehmet Altan.
"After the blast the bus doors got stuck and passengers broke the windows to get out. There were pieces of flesh spread all around," said bus driver Necati Erkek.
Another witness, Hakan Kozan, 29, who was close to the British consulate, said a white pickup truck was responsible for the blast.
"I heard a slam on the brakes and 10 seconds later the explosion came," Kozan said.
Mehmet Celik, who was slightly injured, said a light brown pickup truck "exploded in front of the HSBC headquarters."
Suleyman Karatas, an HSBC staffer, said there was "a bloodbath after the explosion," according to the Anatolia news agency. He said 600 bank staffers were wounded.
Trading on the Turkish stock market was suspended. Some businesses, including the leading Yapi Kredi bank near HSBC and an IBM office near the British consulate, reportedly halted operations on Thursday after the explosions.
'A High Threat of Terrorism'
The British consulate is located in the cramped historic Beyoglu district, a popular tourist destination with shops, bars, movie theaters and restaurants.
The British embassy also issued a warning saying, "we advise against all but the most essential travel to Istanbul, until the situation becomes clearer." The embassy also said that the British consulate's services would be scaled back.
"There is a high threat from terrorism in Turkey," the warning stated. "We urge you to be vigilant in all parts of the country, and especially in the vicinity of potential terrorist targets."
The nearby U.S. consulate was moved months ago to a new, more secure location in another district. Until then, however, it was situated just a few blocks down the street from the British consulate attacked on Thursday, on the same street.
White House spokesman Sean McCormack said, "We're monitoring the situation in the wake of these apparent terrorist attacks."
Turkey's Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said the attacks targeted British-related institutions and appeared linked to Saturday's synagogue bombings.
On Wednesday, authorities arrested six people in connection with the synagogue bombings. A Turkish court charged five with "attempting to overthrow the constitutional structure," which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. A sixth person was charged with "helping illegal organizations," punishable by five years in prison, Anatolia said.
No trial date has been set.
Two homicide attackers, both Turks, blew up pickup trucks outside the synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath, killing 23 people and the two bombers. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the two had visited Afghanistan in the past and that investigators were looking for any Al Qaeda links.
On Sunday, the Al Qaeda terror network claimed responsibility for the bombings, but it was not possible to authenticate those claims. An outlawed Turkish radical group called the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders' Front, or IBDA-C, also claimed responsibility, but Turkish authorities doubted that.
A handwritten notebook that is providing the first tangible link between the Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Turkish terrorism were found in November, 2001, in the Darunta camp near Jalalabad after a coalition assault.
The room filled with documents in various languages was attached to a terrorist bomb factory, which contained chemicals of various kinds and antidotes to radiation poisoning.