A Syrian was charged Friday with masterminding suicide bombings that killed 58 people in Istanbul, and Turkish prosecutors claimed that Osama bin Laden personally ordered him to carry out terror attacks in this pro-Western country.
Loa’i Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa, 32, was accused of serving as a point man between al-Qaida and homegrown militants behind the series of suicide bombings in Istanbul in 2003, said the indictment. It said al-Saqa gave the Turkish militants about $170,000.
He was charged, according to the indictment, with “attempting to overthrow the constitutional (secular) regime.”
The prosecutor’s office demanded life in prison for al-Saqa and identified him as “a high-level al-Qaida official with a special mission.” Al-Saqa was captured in Turkey in August after an alleged failed plot to attack Israeli cruise ships in the Mediterranean.
Israel blasts Russia over Hamas offer
An Israeli Cabinet minister on Friday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “stabbing Israel in the back” for inviting Hamas militants to Moscow following their decisive victory in Palestinian elections.
The invitation is Russia’s latest attempt to assert itself in Mideast diplomacy. France expressed support for the Russian plan, which breaks with the U.S. and European position of not dealing with Hamas until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
Putin further angered Israel on Thursday by saying he did not consider Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide attacks, to be a terrorist group.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Israeli Cabinet Minister Meir Sheetrit of the centrist Kadima Party called Putin’s remarks an “international scandal” that amounted to “stabbing Israel in the back.” He was echoed by other senior Israeli politicians.
Fossett’s flight to wrap up today
Adventurer Steve Fossett altered his projected route over the Atlantic Ocean on Friday to make up for lost fuel and weak winds in his quest to break aviation’s distance record.
Fossett originally planned to fly his lightweight experimental plane on a northeasterly path across the Atlantic that would allow Newfoundland to serve as an emergency landing site.
But the adjusted path called for Fossett to cross Florida, where he began his nonstop trip early Wednesday, and take a more southerly path on the flight’s last leg to take advantage of better winds. He planned to land today in Kent, England.
Fossett was expected to decide early today, as he began a trek over the Atlantic, whether to continue with his nearly 27,000-mile trip or abort. Once over the ocean, there would be little opportunity to land the plane if he ran out of fuel.