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Syrian charged with planning Israeli ship attack

Turkey charged a Syrian man suspected of planning to crash speedboats packed with explosives into cruise ships filled with Israeli tourists with membership in an illegal organization, lawyers and police said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Turkish court on Thursday charged a Syrian suspected of plotting to slam speedboats packed with explosives into cruise ships filled with Israeli tourists, lawyers and police said.

Defense lawyer Ilhami Sayan told reporters the suspect, identified in the Turkish media as Lu’ai Sakra, was charged with membership in an illegal organization. He was arrested on Aug. 6, Turkish media said.

Police said Sakra is also suspected as a go-between for al-Qaida and Turkish extremists responsible for the 2003 bombings of two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank. The bombings killed some 60 people. He also is suspected of having helped the bombing masterminds flee the country.

“I have no regrets,” Sakra shouted to journalists from a window after he was led into the courthouse. “I was going to attack Israeli ships. If they come, my friends will attack them.”

“I had prepared a ton of explosives,” he added in a barely audible voice.

He also shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before officials pulled him back and closed the window. He spoke in Turkish with an Arabic accent.

A police official said Sakra was planning to attack Israeli cruise ships with speedboats packed with explosives. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because only top officials are allowed to speak on the record without prior authorization.

Police suspect Sakra was still in contact with al-Qaida operatives planning future attacks.

As Sakra left the courthouse, he shouted: “I was planning an attack in open seas. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar.”

Another defense lawyer, Osman Karahan, said authorities caught his client with 1,650 pounds of explosives.

“He was planning to hit Israeli ships in international waters with these explosives,” CNN-Turk quoted Karahan as saying.

Top vacation spot for Israelis
Five cruise ships carrying some 5,000 Israeli tourists have been diverted from Turkish ports to Cyprus in recent days following intelligence reports that a terror attack was imminent.

Israel on Monday urged its citizens not to visit beach resorts on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Mostly Muslim Turkey is a top vacation spot for Israelis, and more than 300,000 visit each year.

Suspects tried in Turkey for the 2003 bombings said they originally were planning to attack an Israeli cruise ship in the Mediterranean, according to a court indictment.

The semiofficial Anatolia news agency said the suspect also shouted from the courthouse that he had killed U.S. soldiers in Fallujah, Iraq. The suspected masterminds of the 2003 Istanbul bombings reportedly fled to Iraq and joined the insurgency there.

Sakra faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of membership in an illegal organization.

Karahan told reporters his client had rejected accusations of membership in any organization, and insisted that he was acting alone.

A second Syrian, identified by the semiofficial Anatolia news agency as Hamed Obysi, was charged Wednesday with membership in a terrorist organization. Turkish reports said he was an al-Qaida courier.

Sakra was arrested on Aug. 6, according to a report by the Sabah newspaper.