2012-08-07

Spain arrests three, including Turkish man suspected in al-Qaeda ties

Three are charged in connection with a suspected plot to disrupt the London Olympic Games.

By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 07/08/12

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A Turkish construction worker is among three people charged by a Spanish judge with suspected links to the al-Qaeda network and possession of explosives, amid fears they were planning atrocities in Gibraltar or elsewhere in Europe. Two of them had reportedly practiced flying light aircraft.

  • Spain's Interior Minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, answers a question during a news conference at ministry headquarters in Madrid on Thursday (August 2nd). A Spanish judge charged three people with suspected links to the al-Qaeda network and possession of explosives. [Reuters]

    Spain's Interior Minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, answers a question during a news conference at ministry headquarters in Madrid on Thursday (August 2nd). A Spanish judge charged three people with suspected links to the al-Qaeda network and possession of explosives. [Reuters]

  • Turkish national Cengiz Yalcin was arrested at his house on August 1st. [Reuters]

    Turkish national Cengiz Yalcin was arrested at his house on August 1st. [Reuters]

Turkish national Cengiz Yalcin, who had lived for seven years in the southern city of La Linea and had a British work permit, was arrested at his house on August 1st, while two Chechen-Russians, Ahmad Avar and Muhammad Adamov, were picked up near the central city of Ciudad Real.

The authorities claimed there were clear indications the three could be planning terror attacks. Adamov was considered to be a trained member of al-Qaeda operative system, while Avar, the suspected leader, was a former member of Russian Special Forces, had training as a sniper and was an expert in poisons.

Yalcin, in his part, might have acted as "facilitator," according to Spain's Interior Ministry. At least 100 grams of explosives and various devices which could have been used as detonators were found at his flat, where he has lived with his Moroccan wife.

The investigators believe the suspects were preparing to use a remote-controlled plane to drop explosives on a mall in Gibraltar during the London Olympic Games, which conclude August 12th.

"Spanish police have thwarted several suspected jihadi operations across the country since 2004 train bombings in Madrid, killing 191 people, in attacks, linked to Al-Qaeda," Fernando Reinares, a former senior anti-terrorism adviser to the Spanish government, said.

But the detention of the three suspects in this case "was significant because of their apparent high level of training and capability," Reinares, a terror analyst at the Madrid-based Elcano Royal Institute, added.

The investigators quoted Yalcin as saying that he had met both Avar and Adamov in Turkey, and that they had come to Europe seeking asylum.

In Ankara, government investigators and terror analysts have doubt on any possible direct links of Spanish arrests to Turkey.

"Of course the terror organisation tries to involve new supporters from all around the world. But the Turks have been at the bottom of all al-Qaeda members' list," Suleyman Ozeren, director of the International Center for Terrorism and Transnational Crime at the Turkish Police Academy, told SES Türkiye.

Meanwhile, he stressed that Turkey is ready to help Spanish forces in their investigation, as "it did the very same for Germans two years ago," when two Turkish nationals with al-Qaeda ties, were convicted in Germany.

"As a country which faces with terror almost every day, we are always ready to share our experience and do our best to make sure that our European friends are capable to overcome such threats," he said. "[The EU still] has a long way to go in its fight against the terrorists who manage to seize into its territory through different crime activities, such as human or drug trafficking."

Since the 2003 bombings carried out by al-Qaeda in Istanbul, which killed 57 people, Turkish security forces have taken the domestic threat of international jihadist groups much more seriously. Most recently, last month police arrested two of five suspected al-Qaeda members in Adana.

Yusuf Cinar, founder of Strategic Outlook, a Konya-based think-tank, believes that al-Qaeda recently started targeting Europe, after being defeated by Turkish forces and its policy in Syria.

"The terror organisation at first was hoping to become the Free Syrian Army's most potent weapon, but Turkey didn't let it happen. Now, by using a Turkish national in Europe, they've tried to change the focus on Europe for the purpose of making noise," he told SES Türkiye.

Some analysts, such as Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based senior fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy's Turkey Initiative, believe that Ankara "is only really concerned about al-Qaeda if the threat is against a target inside Turkey."

"There is still a lot of denial in Turkey about the involvement of Turkish nationalists in international terrorism, particularly at the political level and amongst the general public, although several international jihadist groups now have web-pages in Turkish and are actively recruiting from Turkey and the Turkish diaspora in Europe," he told SES Türkiye.

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