The Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front (IBDA-C) has claimed responsibility for the explosions that have reportedly left at least 20 dead and over 200 injured.
“IBDA-C doesn’t have the means to do something like this,” says Professor Nilufer Narli, from Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.
“Its top leaders are all in jail and in the last few years it has lost most of their influence.”
The group’s leader, Salih Izzet Erdis, also known as Salih Mirzabeyoglu, was arrested by Turkish police in 1998 and is now in prison – along with many of the groups older cadre.
“Now, it is nowhere near capable of organising something this sophisticated,” adds Narli, who is an expert on Turkey’s illegal Islamic groups. “This was a very professional attack.”
The IBDA-C traces its ancestry back to the Akincis – Turkey’s large, radical Islamist youth movement of the 1970s.
The movement split after the military coup in 1980, with most members later choosing the peaceful, parliamentary road now championed by Turkey’s ruling party, the relatively liberal pro-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).
'They are nowhere near capable of organising something this sophisticated'
Professor Nilufer Narli,
Kadir Has University, Istanbul
However, a smaller number of former Akincis went on to form a handful of armed groups – such as the IBDA-C.
Yet, “The success of parliamentary Islamism in Turkey has led to groups such as the IBDA-C losing almost all their support,” adds Narli.
The group, a Sunni faction hostile to Iran and the Iranian revolution, had its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.
The group carried out a number of small scale armed attacks – including a grenade attack on Neve Shalom synagogue, target of the first of today’s bombs.
A victim is carried away from the
scene of Saturday's carnage
However, “Since then, the police have rolled up most of the group,” says Gareth Jenkins, an expert on Turkish Islamist groups from the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. “Their style had also always been very amateurish.”
Today’s attacks were far more sophisticated – and deadly. As a result, most Turks are pointing the finger at al-Qaida. Yet, some experts also suggest the attack could not have been carried out without local involvement.
“While I think the people who actually planted the bombs may have been outsiders,” Rusen Cakir, another Turkish expert on Islamist groups, told local broadcaster NTV, “These kinds of acts need a lot of preparation. That’s where you need local contacts.”
The suspicion is that while the IBDC-A may not have been directly involved, blame cannot be entirely placed on foreign shoulders.