Turkish police have detained a suspected al Qaeda militant from Syria who they believe was organizing an attack on Israeli targets in Turkey, security sources said on Wednesday.
The suspect, believed to be the top figure in Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network in Turkey, was apprehended in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Sunday as he attempted to board a plane for Istanbul, the sources said.
The suspected militant, identified as Syrian national "Luia Sakra," was due to appear in an Istanbul court on Thursday, courthouse sources said.
Judges on Wednesday ordered the arrest of another Syrian national brought to the court on charges he is Sakra's courier, the sources said.
Police earlier on Wednesday denied news reports that at least 10 al Qaeda-linked militants had been detained while planning attacks on foreign-flagged ships.
"The news reports that al Qaeda members have been caught with C-4 explosives in the southern provinces are completely wrong and ill-intentioned," police headquarters said in a statement, reports Reuters.
According to Guardian, police official said Sakra was planning to attack Israeli cruise ships with speedboats packed with explosives. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because only top officials are allowed to speak on the record without prior authorization.
Police suspect Sakra was still in contact with al-Qaida operatives planning future attacks.
As Sakra left the courthouse, he shouted: "I was planning an attack in open seas. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar."
Another defense lawyer, Osman Karahan, said authorities caught his client with 1,650 pounds of explosives.
"He was planning to hit Israeli ships in international waters with these explosives," CNN-Turk quoted Karahan as saying.
Five cruise ships carrying some 5,000 Israeli tourists have been diverted from Turkish ports to Cyprus in recent days following intelligence reports that a terror attack was imminent.
Israel on Monday urged its citizens not to visit beach resorts on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Mostly Muslim Turkey is a top vacation spot for Israelis, and more than 300,000 visit each year.