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New Terror Attacks in Turkey

November 21, 2003

ISTANBUL - Britain has warned more terror attacks may target Turkey, after 27 people were killed by truck bombs at its Istanbul consulate and offices of the London-based banking giant HSBC.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who walked through the rubble at the consulate hours after the blast, said the attacks bore the hallmarks of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

The twin blasts on Thursday, five days after two Istanbul synagogues were devastated by suicide truck bombs, killed 27 people and wounded more than 400 others.

The synagogue attacks killed 25 people and wounded 300 in the deadliest week of non-wartime violence in Turkey's modern history.

The blasts cast a pall over US President George W. Bush's talks with Iraq war ally Prime Minister Tony Blair in London and left Istanbul, a city known as the bridge between Europe and Asia, shaken and fearful.

Turkey, the only Muslim Nato member, is one of Washington's closest political and military allies, which makes it a possible target for Islamist militants.

Among at least 13 dead at the consulate was Consul-General Roger Short, a career diplomat, with whom Straw dined when last in Turkey. A truck packed with 250kg of explosives pulled up outside the mission and exploded.

Britain, the United States and Australia -- allies in the Iraq war -- told their citizens to either stay away from the teeming city of 12 million or keep the lowest of profiles.

Some foreign firms sent Turkey-based staff home while other major corporations arranged for staff to leave the country.

Other firms were expected to take similar action following a warning from the British Foreign Office that more attacks could be planned.

"We have information to suggest that further attacks may be attempted," a Foreign Office spokesman told Reuters on Thursday night.

A caller to Anatolian news agency claimed responsibility on behalf of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and a Turkish group known as the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front (IBDA-C).

An al Qaeda unit and the IBDA-C also claimed responsibility for the synagogue attacks and warned the Islamist network was planning more strikes against the United States and its allies.

"When we look at the events of five days ago they almost completely match today's explosions... but it is too early to say who did this," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.

Straw flew into Istanbul on Thursday and walked the grounds of the consulate to take a first hand look at the mayhem. "This is an atrocity against all our civilisations," he said.

Thursday's double strike shocked world markets, already on edge after al Qaeda's warning earlier this week of more attacks.

In New York, the dollar and stocks sank and investors fled to the relative safety of gold and government debt.

The attacks dealt a blow to a Turkish economy struggling with recession and facing huge debt repayments.

The Istanbul stock exchange was closed after the explosions, but not before the stock index had dived 7.37 per cent. Banks ceased quotes on the Turkish interbank foreign exchange market.


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