Turkey Troubles

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 21 2003 4:25 AM

Turkey Troubles

All the papers lead with the two truck bombs that exploded in Istanbul, Turkey, killing at least 27 people and marking the city's second double bombing in less than a week. The attacks represented the worst terror bombings in the country's history and came on the heels of similar attacks on two synagogues last Saturday that left 23 dead. The first bomb peeled off the front of the high-rise HSBC Bank building in the city's Levent commercial center, while the second, five minutes later, dug a 9-foot crater in the street at the front gate of the British Consulate in Taskim, a crowded business and shopping district. Both bombings flattened automobiles, scattered body parts, and left bleeding victims wandering the streets. An anonymous caller told the Anatolian News Agency that yesterday's attack, like the attack Saturday, was a joint effort between al-Qaida and a Turkish group called the Islamic Front of the Raiders of the Great Orient.   

President Bush, in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the war in Iraq is not the cause of the attacks. As tens of thousands of Londoners protested nearby, Bush said in a joint news conference with Blair that the bombings proved the importance of continuing the military campaign against terrorism. In a news analysis, the New York Times says the attacks were designed to disrupt the "pro-Western secular axis" that many in the Middle East believe the United States and its allies are trying to establish in the region. Turkey, a moderate Muslim country with relatively strong ties to the West, was a "logical target" for such an attack, says USA Today. The Washington Post says inside that the bombings are the latest evidence that al-Qaida leaders, weakened by counterterrorism efforts, have franchised their brand of violent attacks to smaller, homegrown terrorist groups around the world, while the Los Angeles Times fronts a piece arguing that the bombings signal the resurgence of a terrorist network strong enough to strike despite an ongoing international crackdown.

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At the news conference, Bush also said he had not ruled out the possibility of increasing the number of troops in Iraq, stating he would do "whatever is necessary to secure" the country. The statement contradicted recent White House suggestions that the number of troops stationed in Iraq would be reduced and seemed to take Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice by surprise, the WP reports. A top aide later told reporters that Bush was not announcing a policy change and insisted that the administration is still planning to reduce troop numbers.

According to overnight reports, rockets were fired at the Palestine and Sheraton hotels in Baghdad early Friday morning, immediately following a rocket attack on the nearby Oil Ministry. The Palestine Hotel is popular among Americans and other Westerners living in Baghdad, particularly journalists. On Thursday, a suicide bomber in Kirkuk blew up an explosive-laden pickup truck parked alongside the office of a U.S.-allied political party, killing five people. Deadly attacks also occurred yesterday in Basra and the towns of Anbar and Ramadi.

The LAT fronts a poll saying that 51 percent of Americans now disapprove of the president's handling of the situation in Iraq, up from 24 percent in April. While a solid majority of respondents—59 percent—still support Bush's conduct in the war on terror, the paper says many believe he lacks a clear Iraq exit strategy.

The Republican National Committee, well aware of such concerns, has unveiled its first advertisement of the presidential race, according to the NYT. The ad plays up Bush's performance in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and criticizes his potential challengers for trying to undermine him. It will appear in Iowa and (probably) New Hampshire in the next few weeks, and RNC officials hope it will counteract the anti-Bush rhetoric coming from Democratic presidential hopefuls.

The WP says that the Department of Homeland Security will soon announce it is abandoning a visitor-registration program targeting Muslim men. The program prompted protests earlier this year after thousands of people who registered were arrested or ordered deported. Critics say it was poorly publicized and argue that it alienated law-abiding citizens while offering negligible national security benefits.

The WP fronts and the Wall Street Journal reefers fraud charges against Gary L. Pilgrim and Harold J. Baxter, the founders of mutual fund company Pilgrim-Baxter. The pair allegedly made millions of dollars by allowing predatory short-term trading in funds they oversaw. Their profits came largely at the expense of the funds' shareholders.

Finally, WSJ offers a rundown of high-end hunting lodges, where five days spent stalking elk can run $13,000. The lodges offer all of the amenities of a luxury hotel, but the real draw is animal availability: Many of the lodges boast what are essentially fenced-in big-game preserves, while others raise birds in pens and release them shortly before a hunt. At New Mexico's Chama Lodge, 98 percent of rifle hunters get their elk. "People don't want to waste their time anymore," says George Taulman, president of one of the leading big-game outfitters. David C. Foster, the editor of Gray's Sporting Journal, apparently doesn't mind putting in the extra hours. "I still consider that grocery shopping," he says.

Brian Montopoli is a reporter with Columbia Journalism Review's CJR Daily.

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