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Turkey: Blasts Bear Al Qaeda Marks

Turkey's government on Monday said that recent suicide bombings in Istanbul appeared to be carried out by militants linked to al Qaeda.

"According to the information we have right now, both those who were involved in these terrorist attacks as suicide bombers, and those who had relations with them, seem close to al Qaeda, are linked to the al Qaeda terrorist organization," Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Western and Turkish officials have said the suicide attacks on two Istanbul synagogues on Nov. 15 and the British Consulate and a London-based bank in Istanbul five days later bore similarities to attacks carried out by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

Turkish officials have been hesitant to definitively link the bombings to al Qaeda.

There have been at least three claims of responsibility for the bombings claiming to be from al Qaeda.

Sener was speaking on behalf of the government after the Cabinet's first meeting since the Nov. 20 attacks.

Turkish media has reported that authorities have been investigating whether the bombers belonged to a Turkish cell of al Qaeda.

Sener did not comment on the reports, but said that more than 130 people have been detained so far in connection to the bombings. He said 21 people have been charged.

Sener also confirmed that 22 people suspected of involvement in the attacks had been repatriated to Turkey from Syria. He provided no details about those suspects.

However, Hatay provincial Gov. Abdulkadir Sari confirmed Monday that the suspects, who were handed over to Turkey Sunday, were being interrogated in the southern city of Antakya, near the Syrian border.

No one has been charged. Six of those being questioned were under 18 years of age, the governor added.

Several key suspects in the bombings that killed 61 people were believed to have fled abroad after the attacks.

Among those handed over by Syria was Hilmi Tugluoglu, who is linked to Azat Ekinci, a key suspect in the blasts, according to a statement from paramilitary police.

Separately Monday, a prosecutor at a state security court, which deals with terrorism cases, questioned the widow of Mesut Cabuk, one the synagogue suicide bombers, and another woman in Istanbul. Both women wore full-length black chadors that are uncommon in Istanbul. The Anatolia news agency said the women were later released.

Turkey's stock market resumed trading for the first time since the Nov. 20 attacks Monday. Turkey's benchmark trade index picked up around 8 percent by Monday afternoon, while the lira was steady at around 1,450,000 to $1.

"Turkey is a country that will pull together," said Tolga Ediz, an economist with Lehman Brothers in London. "There is no sign that this (series of attacks) will have a massive impact on the economy."

News reports have said Ekinci used fake identities and cash to buy the pickup trucks containing the bombs. Tugluoglu's wife was also brought to Turkey and was being questioned.

On Saturday, a Turkish court charged another key suspect, whom police said was captured last week while trying to slip into Iran, with trying to overthrow Turkey's "constitutional order" — a crime equivalent to treason. CBS News reports Deputy Istanbul Police Chief Halil Yilmaz said the suspect traveled to the Beth Israel synagogue site on November 15, the day of the bombing, and gave the final order for the attack.

Police have only identified the man as Y.P. Nearly all major Turkish newspapers identified the man as Yusuf Polat.

Turkish newspapers reported Sunday that Polat and others had confessed to belonging to a 10-man cell that he said was an extension of the al Qaeda terror network.

All the suicide bombers were believed to be Turks.

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