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Turkish organization behind ‘Mavi Marmara’ raided in anti-al-Qaida sweep

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Turkish organization behind ‘Mavi Marmara’ raided in anti-al-Qaida sweep

jpost.com, Jan. 14, 2014

Offices of IHH ransacked and an employee arrested as Turkish police carry out multiple raids against suspected al-qaida collaborators.

In a vast anti-al-qaida sweep led by Turkish forces, the offices of the organization behind the 2010 Gaza flotilla were raided Tuesday and at least one member of the group was arrested, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is a Turkish charity that was one of the main planners of the flotilla. On May 31, 2010, IDF naval commandos raided theMavi Marmara, one of the flotilla vessels attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. They were attacked by activists on board, and in turn killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists.

While Turkey has accused Israel of unprovoked aggression and demanded an apology for the deaths, Israel maintains that the commandos were confronted by violent IHH members when they boarded the vessel, and that they acted in self-defense.

The IHH is widely considered a terrorist organization by a number of bodies, including the Israeli government, and has been accused of maintaining ties with a number of terror organizations.

Turkish officials received the address of a man suspected of having ties to al-qaida and discovered Tuesday that the address was in fact the IHH offices, according to Hurriyet. During the operation, the suspected employee was arrested and the offices were raided, with computers taken and documents confiscated.

Since 2010, Turkish forces have been executing a sweeping range of anti-terror operations in six different provinces. On Tuesday, a number of raids took place and, apart from the IHH employee, 25 more suspected Islamists were detained.

This is not the first time that the IHH has been accused of links to terrorism. In 2012, Bülent Yildirim, the president of the IHH, was put under investigation for terrorist support and funding.

A French intelligence report found that in the mid-1990s Yildirim recruited soldiers for jihad activities in a number of Muslim countries and that IHH transferred money, firearms and explosives to jihadists there.

The reports were never proven and Yildirim continues to lead the IHH.

The IHH, in response to Tuesday’s raid, rejected any ties to al-qaida and denounced the police raid as an attempt to discredit the organization and prevent it from sending humaitarian aid to Syria.

“IHH aid is delivered to Syrian babies, children and those who freeze in the cold … This is an operation to change perceptions (about IHH) and stop aid from being delivered inside Syria,” the group said in a statement.

Hurriyet quoted a lawyer for the IHH as saying that the Turkish Justice Ministry was launching a probe of the police officers involved in the raid.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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