Turkish police detained 15 suspects Wednesda in connection with an al-Qaida-linked plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the New York Times reported. The plot was the second al-Qaida attempt broken up in as many months in Turkey, which is experiencing a surge in movement-oriented and jihadist Islamism.
Ankara police seized more than 1,500 pounds of chemicals used to make bombs, as well as bombs and planning documents, according to a report by the state-run Anatolian News Agency. The arrests, conducted in Ankara and the religiously conservative towns of Yalova and Bursa in northwestern Turkey, followed six months of Turkish police investigation into a prime suspect.
Turkey's Interior Ministry confirmed reports about the capture of the militants, but refused to provide additional details.
Violent extremist groups that share al-Qaida's ideology have been active in Turkey for years, often targeting Americans and their interests. In June, Turkish police arrested 10 affiliated militants in the southern city of Adana, based on information that they were planning attacks on the American Incirlik Air Base. In 2008, an attack blamed on the group killed three policemen outside of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul.
Arrests have averted many attacks and picked up large numbers of militants. In January 2010, the BBC reported that Turkish police had arrested 120 al-Qaida suspects in pre-dawn raids across the country. The suspects were detained on suspicion that they were planning attacks on Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan or Turkish police. The BBC report noted that the country had "pockets of sympathy for jihadist Islam," numbering as many as 5,000 violent Salafists.
Al-Qaida-affiliated militants successfully carried out simultaneously suicide bombings of a British consulate, a local HSBC bank, and two synagogues in 2003. The attacks killed 58 people and shocked the nation. The PKK, which supports Kurdish independence through violent terrorism, has also carried out numerous attacks.
Non-violent Islamist ideology has also made advances in the country, with the Islamist Justice and Development Party seizing a strong majority in parliament. The party has attempted to change Turkey's traditionally secular laws and constitution, in an effort to remove state-enforced secularism in public institutions, and to stamp out regionalism and al-Qaida-linked terrorists. However, it has also shown support for groups like Hamas.