Al Qaeda Cell in Turkey Accused of Planning to Bomb Churches

Indictment reveals Christian targets in Ankara, along with Parliament and U.S. Embassy

ISTANBUL, December 9 (Compass Direct News) – A large-scale Al Qaeda plot to bomb “all the churches in Ankara,” as well as the Turkish Parliament and U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, was made public today.

In an exclusive splashed across the front page of the daily Taraf newspaper, contents of an official indictment against 11 alleged Al Qaeda militants arrested in July revealed the homegrown terrorist cell’s alleged plans to attack Ankara’s churches as well as their Christian clergy.

Prepared and filed by the Special Prosecutor’s Office in Ankara, the 50-page indictment outlined the militants’ revised “jihad” strategy to begin focusing their attacks against Turkey before waging war against the United States and other countries.

“It is more advantageous to wage jihad against Turkey than the United States,” documents seized in the July 14 raid near Ankara reportedly declared. “Let’s blow the Parliament into the sky!”

Quoting from deciphered CDs and other materials, the indictment noted that the extremists reportedly referred to Turkey as a “war zone,” labeling the Turkish government as “apostates” and calling the Turkish state “Satan.”

Among the CDs, detailed maps, sketches and building diagrams, police also discovered lists of the names and home addresses of Christian clergy and other church workers residing in Ankara.

The news took Christian leaders in Ankara by total surprise, according to one Turkish Christian leader in Ankara.

“No one has had any news about this until now,” he said.

In addition to chapels on Ankara’s British, French, Vatican, Italian and Greek embassy grounds, the capital city has several international churches as well as a handful of Turkish Protestant congregations.

According to Taraf, police investigators were tipped off to the militant cell’s activities by citizens living outside Ankara who filed a claim that their son had been kidnapped by Al Qaeda. Police reportedly tracked one of the suspects for six months before nabbing him a week before the others.

Starting from the city of Bursa, a branch of Turkey’s Anti-Terror police began investigations in various municipalities that resulted in the arrest of suspects last July in a duplex apartment in Sincan, a town on the outskirts of Ankara. Video footage found at the scene indicated the men had undergone training in the use of Kalashnikov rifles.

Police seized 700 kilos (1,500 pounds) of explosives, along with assault rifles, ammunition, bomb-making instructions and detailed maps of Ankara.

According to documents summarized in the indictment, Al Qaeda leaders strictly forbade the members of the cell to enroll in Turkey’s required military service, recognize the authority of Turkish courts, send their children to public schools, perform Muslim prayers under the leadership of state-salaried prayer leaders or vote in national elections. Those who disobeyed were warned they would be punished.

Further guidelines noted in the suspects’ diaries came from their leaders in Afghanistan, instructing them how to conduct themselves if arrested: “Stay relaxed under interrogation, refuse to accept charges by giving reasonable answers, and do not provide any information regarding the community.”

Although Al Qaeda’s violent interpretation of Islam receives little public backing in officially secular Turkey, Ankara admits that “dozens” of Turks have received training in Afghanistan.

The 2003 bombings of the British Consulate, a British bank and two synagogues in Istanbul that killed 58 people were attributed to Al Qaeda-affiliated operatives. A 2008 attack also blamed on Al Qaeda left three assailants and three Turkish policemen dead outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul.

In 2010 Turkish authorities made several mass arrests of suspected Al Qaeda members and sympathizers, indicating a significant support network for its cause within Turkey. But terrorism experts have maintained that the local group focused mainly on fundraising and recruitment in Turkey for jihad activities overseas.

In a related development, Istanbul authorities confirmed today that police were searching for three identified Al Qaeda extremists and five other individuals involved in a $3.5 million heist from a Turkish businessman’s bank account.

According to Aksam newspaper, the militants used false identities and bribed bank employees to steal the funds, designated to support the Al Qaeda cause. Four bank employees have been arrested in what police said was one of the first “fiscal terrorism” operations in Turkey.

– Al Qaeda Cell in Turkey Accused of Planning to Bomb Churches, Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct News, Dec. 9, 2011 — © Compass Direct News. Published in Religion News Blog by permission.

Sea burial of Osama bin Laden breaks sharia law, say Muslim scholars

Osama bin Laden‘s burial at sea was quickly criticised by Muslim scholars who claimed it had breached sharia law and warned that it may provoke calls for revenge attacks against US targets, the Guardian says:

Others used the sea burial question to question whether he was dead at all, with doubts fuelled by the absence of authentic photographs of his corpse.

US officials said tests using DNA from several of Bin Laden’s family members had provided “virtual certainty” that it was his body. A woman believed to be one of Bin Laden’s wives identified the al-Qaida leader, and he was visually identified by members of the US raiding party, the Pentagon said. Burying him on land could have led to his grave becoming a focus of contention and pilgrimage as well as posing tough questions about where he should be laid to rest. […]

Senior US officials told news agencies that his body was disposed of in accordance with Islamic tradition, which involves ritual washing, shrouding and burial within 24 hours.

The 24-hour rule has not always been applied in the past. For example, the bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein – sons of the Iraqi dictator Saddam – were embalmed and held for 11 days after they were killed by US forces. Their bodies were later shown to media, provoking some angry responses.

It remains unclear if the US will release photos of Bin Laden’s remains, but dispelling any doubts that he is dead is likely to be a major impetus – particularly in an age when conspiracy theories can be powerfully manipulated on the web. […]

Brad Sagarin, a psychologist at Northern Illinois University who studies persuasion, said the rapid disposal of the body “would certainly be a rich sort of kernel for somebody to grasp on to if they were motivated to disbelieve this.” […]

In terms of the basic requirements for Muslim burials, standard practice involves placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca. Burial at sea is rare in Islam, though Muslim websites say it is permitted in certain circumstances. One is during a long voyage where the body may decompose and pose a health hazard to a ship’s passengers, an exception noted on Monday by Tunisian scholar Ahmed al-Gharbi. Another is if there is a risk of enemies digging up a and grave and exhuming or mutilating the body.

Dr Saud al-Fanisan, former dean of the faculty of sharia law in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said that if a body was buried at sea it should be protected from fish. In the words of alislam.org, the body should be lowered into the water “in a vessel of clay or with a weight tied to its feet”.

Mohammed al-Qubaisi, Dubai’s grand mufti, said of Bin Laden’s burial: “They can say they buried him at sea, but they cannot say they did it according to Islam. Sea burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances. This is not one of them.”

Abdul-Sattar al-Janabi, who preaches at Baghdad’s Abu Hanifa mosque, said: “What was done by the Americans is forbidden by Islam and might provoke some Muslims.

“It is not acceptable and it is almost a crime to throw the body of a Muslim man into the sea. The body of Bin Laden should have been handed over to his family to look for a country to bury him.”

Research resources on Sharia

Al-Qaida Magazine Aims To ‘Inspire’ Western Jihadis

This sounds just crazy enough to be real: Scans of a new glossy magazine started popping up online this week. Inspire features slick graphics, high-quality production and stories like “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.” The first page also promises an editorial from Osama bin Laden himself, although due to technical issues, only three pages of the magazine are currently available.

Inspire is being published by a Yemen-based branch of al-Qaida, and it’s aimed at radicalizing an English-speaking audience. Al-Qaida has a well-established propaganda arm, but, as analyst Juan Zarate tells NPR host Guy Raz, Inspire marks its first major effort to reach out to English speakers.

Zarate is a former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration and is currently a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says that despite concerns about the authenticity of Inspire, he believes it genuinely does come from al-Qaida. [Read more...]