Turkish police have detained five men suspected of having ties to a group fighting with the Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, a senior security official in Izmir in western Turkey told Reuters on Friday 10/22/2010. “We detained five men from five different cities: Hatay, Istanbul, Kayseri, Antalya and Izmir,” the official said.

The five, who were described as students, were taken to court after being arrested two days earlier in west and southwest Turkey.

“These people belong to an Aegean branch of Al Qaeda. The leader is currently in Afghanistan, fighting for Al Qaeda.”

The leader of the group was named “Zekeriya” and served time in prison before joining the insurgency against Afghan and NATO-ISAF forces in Afghanistan, said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

The arrests come hard on the heels of last month’s security scare across Europe, which followed the arrest in Germany of European Muslims believed to belong to a branch the Global Jihad network (see – All-Europe Plot).

One of the suspects, the official said, is a 23-year-old mathematics student who was designing computer programs aimed at jamming the flight controls of UAVs (see also – Cyber Jihad). He was also a bomb maker, the official said. UAVs became recently the most effective tool of the Americans in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and its allies inside Pakistan FATA region.

The others were involved in fund raising for the militants, he added.

Turks have until now played little part in Al Qaeda’s Global Jihad, but security analysts have noted an increase in the number of Turkish language jihadi websites, some of which have posted obituaries for Turkish militants killed in Afghanistan.

Turks first went to fight in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, when a few joined the mujahideen, holy warriors, then fighting to end the Russian occupation.

The number of Turks fighting in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is believed to be relatively small, though a senior security official in northwest Pakistan told Reuters there had been an increase over the past years.
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