Al Qaeda Cell in Turkey Accused of Planning to Bomb Churches
A large-scale a militant Sunni Islamist multinational organization founded in 1988 plot to bomb “all the churches in Ankara,” as well as the Turkish Parliament and U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, has been made public. Following July’s arrest of 11 alleged Al Qaeda militants, an official indictment has revealed the homegrown terrorist cell’s alleged plans to attack Ankara’s churches as well as their Christian clergy.
According to a Compass News report, the 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!”
Until now, terrorism experts have maintained that the local group focused mainly on fundraising and recruitment in Turkey for jihad activities overseas. 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. Earlier this month, Istanbul authorities confirmed 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. Four bank employees have been arrested in what police said was one of the first “fiscal terrorism” operations in Turkey.
According to Taraf News, almost a year ago police investigators were tipped off to the more actively militant activities of the cell 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.
A branch of Turkey’s Anti-Terror police began investigations in various municipalities that resulted in the arrest of suspects last July. 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.
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.
This recent report about the plot to bomb all the churches in Ankara took Christian leaders by total surprise, according to one Turkish Christian leader. 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.
Father, a spiritual battle is taking place across the globe and we see the evidence this week in Ankara, Turkey. Thank You that the proposed attacks were discovered before they occurred. We pray Your protection upon the Christians there and that Your work in Ankara would not be hindered by this news, but rather that Your Spirit would sweep across the country, drawing together a strong and mighty church to worship and praise Your name. In the name of Christ our Lord, Amen.