ISTANBUL -- A Syrian with suspected Al Qaeda ties appeared in court yesterday amid charges he plotted to slam speedboats packed with explosives into cruise ships carrying Israeli tourists.
Police, meanwhile, frantically searched for others linked to the suspect, who reportedly had plastic surgery to conceal his identity. Authorities were also hunting for two squads of possible suicide bombers, reports said.
Defense lawyer Ilhami Sayan told reporters the man, identified in the Turkish media as Lu'ai Sakra, was charged in court with membership in an illegal organization. He was arrested Aug. 6, Turkish media said.
Police said Sakra is also suspected as a go-between for Al Qaeda and Turkish extremists responsible for the 2003 bombings of two synagogues, the British Consulate, and a British bank. The bombings killed some 60 people. He also is suspected of having helped the bombing masterminds flee the country.
''I have no regrets," Sakra shouted to journalists from a window after he was led into the courthouse. ''I was going to attack Israeli ships. If they come, my friends will attack them.
''I had prepared a ton of explosives," he added.
He also shouted ''Allahu akbar," Arabic for ''God is great," before officials pulled him back and closed the window. He spoke in Turkish with an Arabic accent.
A 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 comment on the record without prior authorization.
A Turkish police official said security forces were looking for other suspects linked to Sakra. Private NTV television said police were searching for two teams of possible suicide bombers. Other details were not available.
Israel yesterday canceled its travel warning to Turkey, with the country's counterterrorism center saying the move was the result of efforts by Turkish security forces. But Israeli tourists were urged to exercise caution.
While authorities suspect he was still in contact with Al Qaeda operatives planning an attack, defense attorney Osman Karahan said his client denies he is a member of any organization and insisted he was acting alone.