Turkish anti-terrorism police report they have captured four suspected al-Qaeda militants who were plotting to carry out a bomb attack in Istanbul. The raids, in the city’s Bagcilar district, turned up two guns and explosive materials. Police said that the suspects came under suspicion after they held an illegal protest in favor of al-Qaeda on June 8, when the leader of “al-Qaeda in Iraq” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed. (Zaman, Sept. 9)
We ask: what makes a protest, even for a figure as unsympathetic as Zarqawi, “illegal”? And isn’t such heavy-handed authoritarianism only going to fuel a jihadist backlash?
Speaking of fueling a backlash, on Sept. 5, as Turkey’s parliament voted to approve sending troops for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, thousands of protesters took to the streets and mixed it up with the local constabulary. Favorite slogans included “We will not become Israeli soldiers” and “Murderer USA get out of the Middle East!” Several protesters were detained by the police. It was not immediately clear from reports if the protesters were leftists, Islamists or a combination of the two. (Reuters, Sept. 5)
This is further evidence of al-Qaeda’s transformation from an elite cadre organization to a “transnational movement”, as the new US Strategy for Combatting Terrorism puts it.