Terror suspect in Turkey: I collaborated in the September 11 attacks — (Haaretz Daily)

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Haaretz Daily

By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

August 19, 2005

Lawia Sakra, the central suspect in last week’s terror attempt in Turkey and one of the five most senior members of al-Qaida, met Mohammad Atta and supplied passports and money to terrorists in the United States, the Turkish daily Zaman reported on Monday.

Lawia Sakra, a suspected Syrian al-Qaida operative arrested in Turkey last week, claims he knew about the preparations for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and even helped the terrorists. Sakra was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the latest attempted terror attack against Israeli tourists that was thwarted in Southern Turkey.

The Turkish newspaper Zaman published Monday details from the investigation conducted by Turkish security forces.

According to the probe, Sakra related that he supplied passports and money to some of the terrorists that were involved in the attacks in New York and Washington. He also claimed that he met the Egyptian Mohammed Atta, who is considered to be the commander of al-Qaida operations, and who flew the first plane into the Twin Towers.

Along with Sakra, Turkish police arrested last week some ten others suspected in the planning of last week’s attempted attacks. Zaman reported that Sakra is an al-Qaida commander in Turkey, one of the five most senior members in the organization and an expert in destruction. He said he was not connected to the bombing in Sharm el-Sheik last month that killed 88 people.

Sakra is also a suspect in the 2003 attacks in Istanbul, in which 60 people were killed. Sakra allegedly assisted in the operations in attacks on two synagogues and on the British consulate, and in helping the bombers to flee the country.

While the other detainees connected to this matter are religious and pray while in jail, Sakra claimed that he does not pray.

Sakra was undergoing psychological treatment and taking anti-depressants when he was arrested, Zaman also reported, and following a psychiatric evaluation, it was decided to continue this treatment in prison.

Sakra was arrested last Sunday in the city of Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey, when he tried to board a flight to Istanbul. The police suspect that he underwent plastic surgery and tried to fly to Istanbul under Bedouin identity documents to carry out another attack. The police also suspect that he is still in contact with al-Qaida operatives, even after his arrest.

Last week, five cruise ships carrying more than 5,000 Israelis were diverted from Turkish ports because of intelligence reports warning of suspected attacks by al-Qaida. The Israeli government issued a warning to citizens that called on Israelis to avoid visits to the coastal strip of Turkey. The warning was lifted after the arrests.

After his arrest last week, Sakra yelled from the courthouse window, “I have no remorse. I planned to attack Israeli ships. If they come, my friends will attack them.” He also yelled, “Allah Akbar,” Arabic for ‘God is great,’ before police closed the window.