A key Syrian al-Qaida suspect allegedly told interrogators that his failed plot to attack an Israeli cruise ship was financed by Taliban chief Mullah Omar, private NTV Television reported Tuesday.
Loa'i Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa told interrogators that he received US$50,000 from Omar to carry out attacks against Israeli targets in his name, but Omar was against attacking US targets, NTV said.
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Al-Saqa was captured in Turkey in August after an alleged failed plot to attack Israeli cruise ships. He was indicted earlier this month 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.
Al-Saqa's lawyer, Osman Karahan, was not available for comment. Omar is believed to have sought refuge in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
The indictment said al-Saqa had bought a yacht for about US$7,000 as well as an underwater scooter to be used in that attack. Al-Saqa also bought an apartment for about US$350,000 in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya for use as a safe house, it added.
Identifying himself as a guerrilla fighter, al-Saqa admitted to failed plans to make a bomb and stage an attack on Israeli tourist ships. Al-Saqa and his Syrian accomplice, Hamid Obysi, were captured after an accidental explosion forced them to flee the safe house in Antalya.
"I was going to carry out the action the next day if there was no explosion," NTV television quoted al-Saqa as telling to his interrogators. "I was thinking of attacking a NATO military ship there if I could not attack the passenger ship."
Al-Saqa and Obysi were expected to be tried along with more than 70 other al-Qaida suspects already on trial for carrying out the Istanbul suicide bombings. The next hearing in the main al-Qaida trial is scheduled for March 20.
The November 2003 bombings destroyed a British bank, the British Consulate and two synagogues.
Prosecutors have accused al-Saqa of serving as a point man between al-Qaida and homegrown militants behind the series of suicide bombings in Istanbul in 2003.
Al-Saqa had cosmetic surgery, according to a medical report, and operated by using an array of fake IDs and employing aliases even with his al-Qaida contacts, according to the indictment. Several accused Turkish al-Qaida suspects recognized al-Saqa's photos but identified him with different names, most calling him "Syrian Alaaddin."
Al-Saqa has already been sentenced in absentia by Jordan in 2002, along with al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for a failed plot to attack Americans and Israelis in Jordan with poison gas during millennium celebrations.