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Turkey vows to catch bombing accomplices
( 2003-11-23 11:02) (Agencies)

Before a crowd mourning for slain policemen, Turkey's prime minister vowed Saturday to hunt down any accomplices of the Turkish militants who carried out a string of sophisticated suicide bombings that killed 57 people and injured hundreds.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish security forces and police had made rapid progress in the investigation into the attacks that shook Turkey over the past week, identifying some of the Turks who executed the strikes.

Any surviving conspirators would be caught, Erdogan said at a funeral service held for two police officers slain in the bombings.

"Citizens with links abroad have carried out the attacks. Let's hope that there are no others, but if there are, authorities are pursuing them and I am sure they will be caught," he said.

At least three groups with purported links to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attacks. Bombings on Thursday hit the British Consulate and a London-based bank, killing 30 victims and two suicide bombers. Five days earlier, suicide bombers hit two synagogues, killing 23 victims and two bombers.

Most of the victims were Muslim Turks. Jewish leaders canceled services across the country Saturday, the first Sabbath since the synagogue attacks.

Erdogan spoke on Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by telephone, agreeing to cooperate in the fight on terrorism. The chief of Israel's Mossad secret service agency reportedly traveled to Turkey this week following the attacks in an apparent expansion of coordination between the allies.

Turkey and Israel have built up strong military and trade ties. Now Turkey is seeking Israel's expertise from more than 100 suicide bombings since September 2000 and knowledge on how to track Islamic militants.

Six people were arrested after the synagogue bombings. The daily Hurriyet newspaper said Saturday that 18 people were taken into custody late Thursday, just hours after the near-simultaneous attacks at the consulate and the Turkish headquarters of London-based HSBC bank.

Erdogan met Britain's ambassador to Turkey, Sir Peter Westmacott, at the former U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, which the United States offered to the British for temporary use after the bombings.

The United States recently moved out of the downtown building to a safer suburban location amid increased concerns about security.

Investigators have identified the automobile dealership that sold pickup trucks used in the attacks, Hurriyet said without giving further details. The trucks were packed with explosives and detonated once they reached their targets.

Turkey has placed its security forces on high alert and has ordered its anti-terrorism and intelligence agents to cancel vacations. Foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, cautioned that terrorists could strike again and issued travel warnings to their citizens.

President Bush called Turkey "a new front" in the war on terror Friday and offered help in catching the perpetrators. Britain has sent anti-terrorism investigators to Turkey.

Small protests were held in Istanbul, the capital Ankara and other cities Saturday. Organized by trade unions and nongovernment organizations, the protests were intended to express sympathy for the victims and indignation over the attacks - the deadliest peacetime violence here in a generation.

The Istanbul demonstration drew about 2,000 people, a crowd that included large numbers of leftists who shouted slogans against Bush and Israel. Organizer Faruk Buyukkucak of the Turk-IS trade union confederation said he was disappointed that leftists used the demonstration for political purposes.

"Today's purpose was to do a silent walking protest. These groups are not the voice of the Turkish people," he said.

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