updated 3/16/2004 10:35:32 AM ET 2004-03-16T15:35:32

Police investigating the suicide bombing of a Masonic lodge last week have arrested 18 suspected Islamic militants, including three who were planning new suicide bombings, Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler said Tuesday.

The 18 were arrested over the past week in raids of Istanbul homes, he said.

“We have foiled new suicide attacks,” Guler told a news conference at which he displayed a vest with homemade pipe bombs attached, along with other explosives.

Guler did not say what targets the militants were planning to strike, but private NTV television said the militants were planning an attack on a leading media company. It did not elaborate.

Guler said all those arrested were involved in building bombs and planning the March 9 attack on the Masonic lodge, in which one bystander and one attacker died. Five people and another attacker were seriously hurt.

Eight of those arrested were still being interrogated, while 10 others were to be formally charged later Tuesday, Guler said.

“We know they received political and military training in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. “We don’t know if they are al-Qaida camps, but the influence of al-Qaida in those camps is obvious.”

Turkish authorities are still investigating whether al-Qaida was involved in the attack.

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi said last week that it had received a statement from an al-Qaida-linked group, Jund al-Quds, or Soldiers of Jerusalem, claiming responsibility for the bombing.

Guler also said that one of the militants arrested had confessed to the 2003 killing of a Jewish dentist in Istanbul.

Authorities have said the March 9 attack bore little resemblance to the four carefully planned suicide truck bombings in Istanbul last November that killed 62 people. Authorities blamed those attacks on al-Qaida.

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