Analysts: Capture of top Al-Qaeda figure raises need for further co-operation
Suleiman Abu Ghaith was arrested at a hotel in Ankara's central Cankaya district early last week.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 04/02/13
The capture of a top Al-Qaeda figure -- the group's former spokesman and Osama bin Laden's son-in-law -- in Ankara last week underlines Turkey 's commitment and role in cracking down on terrorism groups as well as international co-operation against terrorism, according to the country's top terrorism researchers.
Suleiman Abu Ghaith, seen in a 2002 file photo, reportedly entered Turkey using a fake Saudi Arabian passport, with the objective of seeking political asylum and then travelling to Saudi Arabia to rejoin his wife, Fatima Bin Laden. [AFP]
"Turkey has always seriously stood against terrorism and does everything possible in its part, to prevent the terrorists everywhere," Suleyman Ozeren, director of the Ankara-based International Centre for Terrorism and Transnational Crime under the Department of Research Centres of the Police Academy, told SES Türkiye.
In the meantime, he added, "the risk is continuing and the latest operations underline the need for further international co-operation against terrorism."
Turkish security services arrested Suleiman Abu Ghaith at a hotel in Ankara's central Cankaya district early last week after receiving an intelligence tip regarding his arrival in Turkey.
The 57-year-old Kuwaiti native, known as al-Qaeda N2, reportedly entered Turkey using a fake Saudi Arabian passport with the objective of seeking political asylum and then travelling to Saudi Arabia to rejoin his wife, Fatima Bin Laden.
After being questioned by Ankara's counter-terrorist directorate, the courts decided to release Abu Ghaith on the grounds that he had not committed any crimes other than entering the country with a fake passport. He was returned to the police department for extradition from the country.
"It's no secret that the terrorists have always tried to illegally enter Turkey while traveling from countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan to Europe or vise-versa. However, their punishment is always being different depending on whether they've committed any crime in Turkey," Serhat Erkmen, an international relations assistant professor at Ahi Evran University who has been conducting research on al-Qaeda since 1999, told SES Turkiye, adding that with a decision of deporting Abu-Ghaith to Iran, Turkish police likely "weren't interested in publicising this operation until it leaked to media later last week."
In the meantime, he added, Turkey is very well prepared to capturing terrorists, because "our security forces are much stronger that they were 10 years ago," Erkmen said.
"Almost every month there are some al-Qaeda related operations all around Turkey, while not all of them are always being covered by the media," he said. Ozeren said that despite the chaotic situation across the border, the government is confident that it can counter any threat from terrorism.
"It's not for the first time that our security forces capture top al-Qaeda figures," he said, while emphasising the importance of international cooperation. "Unfortunately, Turkey doesn't receive deserved support from other countries in terms of fight against terrorism."
Homegrown Islamic militants tied to al-Qaida have carried out suicide bombings in Istanbul in 2003 attacking the British consulate, killing 58 people, including the British consul-general.
In 2005, Turkish police have detained 10 people suspected of links to al-Qaeda of plotting attacks on Israeli cruise ships in country's southeast.
In 2008, an attack blamed on al-Qaida-affiliated militants outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul left three assailants and three policemen dead.
Kenan Erturk, head of the Terrorism Research Centre at the 21st Century Turkey Institute, an Istanbul-based think-tank, believes that in addition to being "an attractive transit country" for the terrorists and their affiliates, Turkey has always been targeted by al-Qaeda because of its tough neighbourhood and NATO membership.
"Our co-operation with the international allies is essential as the threat still remains," he told SES Turkiye, arguing that the terrorists are still able to operate "from Europe to Syria and vise-versa."