Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Al Qaeda threatens Turkey over Israel, US ties

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — A suspected leader of a Turkish al-Qaeda cell told a court Monday that last year's suicide bombings in Istanbul were part of al-Qaeda's global campaign and warned of more attacks if Turkey continues to support U.S. policies or maintains close ties with Israel.

Defendant Harun Ilhan told the court that he and two other suspected ringleaders who remain at large — Habib Akdas and Gurcan Bac — were behind the November truck bombings that left 61 people dead. Ilhan said most of the 69 suspects charged in the case were not directly involved in the bombings.

"I accept that I am an al-Qaeda warrior," said Ilhan, who opened his testimony with a brief prayer and at times refused to stand during the trial.

Ilhan, a bearded man who wore blue jeans and sports shoes to the hearing, also praised the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and warned that while Osama bin Laden is mortal "jihad (holy war) is eternal."