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Botched Istanbul Suicide Attack Kills 2

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Moscow Times

Thursday, Mar. 11, 2004.

Botched Istanbul Suicide Attack Kills 2

Reuters ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A suicide bomber who killed one other person in an attack on an Istanbul freemasons' building botched the job, Turkish media reported Wednesday.

His accomplice failed to kill himself in Tuesday's attack which wounded five people and revived memories of four blasts in the city blamed on al-Qaida in November that killed 61 people.

"We don't think it is likely this attack was the work of al-Qaida or Hezbollah," the Hurriyet daily quoted an unnamed senior security source as saying, referring to a radical Turkish Islamist group not connected with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

"It could have been carried out by inexperienced militants of a newly formed radical religious group... If the bomb had been better made, the whole building could have blown up."

Yakup Yildirim, who rushed to the scene to help the injured, said survivors told him that one of the attackers chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) before he detonated the bomb -- which could indicate the attack was the responsibility of radical Islamic militants, The Associated Press reported.

Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler told reporters two men had entered a restaurant on the ground floor of the three-story building at 10:10 p.m. local time after firing at the windows and shooting a security guard in the foot.

"[One of the men] detonated the bomb he had on him," Guler said, killing himself and a waiter.

The second attacker lost an arm in the blast and was taken to a hospital "with his intestines hanging out," Guler said.

About 40 people had been eating at the restaurant at the time of the attack, but apart from broken windows, the building suffered little damage. Guler said the explosion occurred near the entrance and the wounded were all seated nearby. No group has so far claimed responsibility.

The Milliyet daily quoted security experts saying the pipe-style bomb was of the kind typically used by a Turkish militant group called the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders' Front, or IBDA-C.

IBDA-C surfaced in the mid-1990s with a series of bomb attacks on nightclubs and churches in Istanbul and claimed responsibility for the November blasts, although Turkish authorities linked them to al-Qaida.

Turkish media said the second bomber could not be taken to a hospital for an hour and a half while explosives strapped to his body were removed.

The state-run Anatolian news agency said he was in surgery along with one of the wounded victims. Three other wounded were being treated, and one had been discharged from a hospital.

Freemasonry has long claimed followers in Muslim but secular Turkey among businessmen, academics and politicians, especially in Istanbul, a cosmopolitan city of more than 10 million people.

Last November's attacks targeted two synagogues, the British consulate and a British-owned bank, killing 61 and wounding 644 people in one of the worst spates of peacetime violence in modern Turkish history. Turkish prosecutors recently opened a case against 69 people accused of involvement in the attacks.

Five defendants face charges carrying a life sentence for "trying to change the constitutional order by force". The rest could face jail terms of up to 22 1/2 years for charges including being a member of, or aiding, an illegal group.

Further Reading:

Freemasonry in Turkey