JERUSALEM – Israel’s chief intelligence agency, the Mossad, is now working with Turkey to track down al Qaeda agents in the region. The extraordinary alliance between security officials in Muslim Turkey and the Jewish state shows how seriously the world’s intelligence agencies are taking the continuing threat from Osama bin Laden’s terror network.
Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, confirmed the ties to Mossad in a recent interview with Israeli TV.
Erdogan admitted Turkey had misread the al Qaeda threat before homicide bombers struck twice in Istanbul last November.
“That’s the nature of terrorism,” he said. “It is toying with the different intelligence agencies around the world.”
The bombers first attacked two synagogues and then, less than a week later, bombed the British consulate and an HSBC bank.
“What hurt me deeply,” said Erdogan, a proud Muslim, “is that the attacks on the synagogues took place during the prayers of innocent people.”
Turkey quickly launched a massive hunt for the bombers’ accomplices.
Sources said one of the arrested suspects admitted: “We wanted to attack American targets in Ankara and Istanbul. But they’re so tightly guarded even birds can’t fly over them.”
So, he said, the terrorists chose the second-best targets. More than 50 people were killed and more than 300 wounded in the bombings. Another man, a major suspect in the attacks, was arrested within two weeks of the bombings when he tried to flee to Iran with false ID.
But still safe and in hiding is the mastermind of the attacks, a Jordanian named Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, according to the Turkish newspaper Huriyet.