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RESPONSE TO TERROR

Turkey Guarding Busy Straits Against Attack

November 21, 2001|Reuters

ISTANBUL, Turkey — A special coast guard force began patrolling the winding Bosporus Tuesday as Turkey tightened security against possible attacks on the busy waterway that connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean.

NATO member and close U.S. ally Turkey announced the measures in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, fearing that the 50,000 vessels crossing the straits each year could come under attack.

Up to 7,000 of those ships carry crude oil and other flammable cargo. The new security force, called Saget, will escort such vessels, said Osman Tinc, naval commander for the Bosporus and Sea of Marmara.

"The teams . . . will protect against terrorist actions that could come from the sea against [state pipeline concern] Botas' enterprises as well as foreign warships," Tinc added.

The Bosporus and the Dardanelles at the western end of the Sea of Marmara are governed by the 1936 Montreux Treaty mandating free passage to all ships in peacetime.

The Bosporus runs through Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, the commercial capital with a population of 10 million people.

Saget will keep two armed security teams on the Bosporus and three in the Dardanelles. Another three groups will be dispatched along Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

The open-top orange speedboats, powered by twin engines, travel at up to 40 nautical mph and carry three soldiers armed with machine guns. The boats are equipped with high-tech communications to link with passing vessels.

"The teams . . . will add to our coast guard command's strength and will be a large component against possible terrorist actions from the sea," Interior Minister Rustu Kazim Yucelen said.

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