Attacks on Istanbul synagogues: At least 24 killed, more than 250 wounded, Al Qaeda blamed
Huge blasts rocked downtown Istanbul Saturday, not far from two Istanbul's synagogues, killing at least 24 people and wounding more than 100 others.
One explosion took place near the city's largest synagogue, Neve Shalom, and a second blast reported near the Beth Israel synagogue in the district of Sisli.
Turkish police said that both bombings were the result of car bombs.
According to the Jewish Agency, six of those killed in the blasts - including an eight-year-old girl - and 80 of those injured have been identified as Jews. Among the dead are a security guard who stood in front of one of the synagogues, and a police officer.
An outlawed Turkish group called the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front claimed responsibility for these attacks, the Anatolia news agency said about two hours after the bombings. The Turkish Interior Minister said he could not rule out an Al-Qaeda link to the attacks.
Later, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said "It is clear that this is a terrorist event with international links."
On his part, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan vowed to avenge the attacks. "I condemn this act as an act of terror against humanity," Erdogan told reporters on an official visit to northern Cyprus.
US President Bush said he condemns the bombings "in the strongest possible terms." "The focus of these attacks on Turkey's Jewish community, in Istanbul's synagogues where men, women, and children gathered to worship God, remind us that our enemy in the war against terror is without conscience or faith," he said in a statement issued by the White House.
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Turkey said that Turkey had turned down Israel's offer to send special police forces to assist in investigating the attacks.
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)