Published November 20, 2003
BRUSSELS, Belgium – Arab countries joined the rest of the world in condemning Thursday's suicide bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, with the Syrian information minister calling the attacks "a barbarous crime."
"Syria's government and people condemn all terrorist actions that target innocent civilians and which serve only the enemies of security, stability and peace," Information Minister Ahmad al-Hassan told the official Syrian Arab News Agency (search).
Because of its support for Palestinian radical groups, Syria is on the State Department list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
The secretary-general of the Arab League (search), Amr Moussa, said he "strongly condemns the explosions that targeted innocent civilians," according to his spokesman, Hisham Youssef. The Arab League groups 21 Arab states and the Palestinian Authority.
The explosions destroyed the outer parts of the British Consulate-General and the Turkish headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank in Istanbul, killing more than two dozen people and wounding hundreds.
The attacks were blamed on the Al Qaeda terror network, which claimed responsibility for Saturday's suicide bombings at two synagogues in Istanbul. Those attacks killed 23 people and the two bombers.
Some saw a premeditated political pattern behind the attack, not just blind hatred.
"The synagogues the other day, the Brits today. It seems like someone is trying to tell the Turks that they should be punished for the support to Israel, for the support to the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq," Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said.
Moeller said no one anymore could feel safe. "Everybody can be hit, the Red Cross (search), the United Nations, the synagogues, the consulates are being hit," he said, referring to attacks in Iraq as well as Turkey.
"I don't know who is responsible for those explosions, but whoever is responsible, it is a big mistake," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters in Cairo. "There is no justification for such criminal attacks, which are denounced by the civilized world."
Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher denounced the Istanbul attacks and offered Turkey his country's support.
"These terrorist attacks, and the ones which preceded them on the Jewish synagogues in Istanbul, require increased international efforts to combat all forms of terrorism," Muasher said in a statement carried by the official Petra news agency.
World leaders vowed to intensify the fight against terrorism.
"There must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace, in attacking it wherever and whenever we can and in defeating it utterly," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.
European countries had already increased security around many potential targets like embassies and synagogues since Saturday's bombing, and the new attacks only stepped up such efforts. German police erected barriers around the British Embassy in downtown Berlin on Thursday.
Several countries, from Britain to Switzerland, advised against traveling to Turkey.
Even Europe's most popular pastime, soccer, was affected. The European federation UEFA postponed two international matches in Turkey because of the attacks.
Germany's foreign spy chief, August Hanning, said bin Laden continues to play an important role in mobilizing resurgent Al Qaeda activists, who have found a new rallying point in the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
"Now they are once again able to carry out attacks on a major scale," he said. "We believe (bin Laden) still plays an important role in the background," he said. "He communicates with his supporters through his messages. He tries to mobilize them, and of course he uses the situation in Iraq."
Against such threats, the world rallied around Turkey on Thursday.
"It is not just Israel, this is a danger to the entire free world. There is no compromising with terror," said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "This compels us to remember the need for the free world to fight the terror."
The attacks coincided with President Bush's visit to Britain, the chief ally of the war in Iraq. On Thursday, British targets were at the center of the attacks.
"Great Britain, America and other free nations are united today in our grief and united in our determination to fight and defeat this evil wherever it is found," Bush said.
The NATO nations and Russia said in a joint statement after a meeting Thursday that "the terrorists who carry out these atrocities will not succeed in their efforts to sow fear and division among the international community."
At the European Parliament, the legislators stood a minute in silence to commemorate the victims.