ISTANBUL (NY Times)–More than 120 people said to have ties to Al Qaeda, including suspected senior members of the terrorist group’s Turkish branch, were arrested in raids across Turkey on Friday morning, the semi-official Anatolian News Agency reported.
Security forces also seized a cache of weapons, explosives, medical equipment and fake identity cards and passports in the raids, which spanned 16 cities.
A report in the Turkish newspaper Zaman said that some of those arrested had been planning an attack on the Kabul regional command center of the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan. Turkish armed forces took over the rotating command of the center in November.
The report in Zaman said the suspects were also planning to attack targets in Turkey.
The arrests came a week after Turkish authorities detained more than 25 people with suspected terrorist links in the capital, Ankara, and the southern town of Adana. Information obtained from those arrests led to Friday’s raids, according to news reports.
The Anatolian News Agency said that suspected leaders of Al Qaeda’s Turkish branch were among the detained. Turkish news reports identified one suspected leader as Serdal Erbasi, also known as Abu Zehr, saying he had built a cell in Ankara.Turkey, a predominately Muslim nation of more than 70 million people, has fought for years against extremists, including Kurdish separatist militants, leftists and extreme right-wingers and Islamic militants.
In 2003, a group linked to Al Qaeda carried out a series of deadly attacks that stunned this predominately Muslim nation. Suicide bombers drove four trucks laden with explosives into two synagogues, the British consulate and a bank, killing more than 60 people and wounding hundreds.
Dozens of people were charged and convicted for their involvement in the bombings.
In July 2008, gunmen said to have ties to Al Qaeda opened fire on the United States consulate in Istanbul, killing three police officers. The three assailants were also killed