Militant Islamic group claims responsibility for Turkey attacks

CAIRO, Egypt, AP

An Islamic militant group posted an Internet claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, that killed two people and wounded 11.

The group Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades said the attacks were the first of a “wave of operations” in European countries and worse was to come.

“Istanbul is the opening for the bloody war we promised the Europeans,” said the statement posted hours after the attacks on an Islamic Web site known for publishing the messages of militant groups.

It was not possible to check the authenticity of the claim. Western experts on counterterrorism have questioned the credibility of Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades as it has previously claimed to be behind events such as power failures in Britain and North America in which it did not play a role. The group takes its name from a top al-Qaida lieutenant who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in 2001.

In its message Tuesday, the group said the details of its bombings in Istanbul, and how the bombs were set, would be published later. The statement did not specify the targets.

Bombs exploded at two small hotels in Istanbul on Tuesday and also at a liquefied petroleum gas plant on the outskirts of the city. It was not immediately clear if the explosions were instigated by the same organization.

“The first strike that hit Istanbul is nothing but the beginning of a series of attacks in the face of European capitals,” the statement said. “As we have said before, Europe’s trailing behind the despicable (U.S. President George W.) Bush will lead to an escalating war that will not end until Europe changes its policies toward Muslims and rejects American criminal policies.”

The statement referred to a three-month truce that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden offered European governments in April, urging them to withdraw their forces from Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. Since the truce expired on July 15, Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades has repeatedly threatened Europe with an all-out campaign of terrorism.

Tuesday’s statement said that because Europe did not respond to bin Laden’s truce, “We will translate our words to acts on the ground, like we did in Madrid and Istanbul” _ referring to the Madrid train bombings in March that killed about 200 people and Tuesday’s attacks.