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Photo by: IDF Spokesperson.
'Turkish gov't backed extremists'
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
09/06/2010
The IHH operatives maintained close ties with Erdogan, report says.
 
A report released this week by the Intelligence and Terrorism
Information Center (ITIC) said new details have emerged which show how
approximately 40 operatives from the Turkish Islamist IHH organization
carefully prepared a violent ambush on navy commandos last week on
board the Mavi Maramara ship, and acted with the full backing of the
Turkish government.

The IHH operatives were armed with knives, axes and other weapons,
communicated with one another using walkie talkies, set up a control
room onboard the ship, and maintained close ties with Turkish Prime
Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the report said.

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In addition, the Mavi Maramara ship was purchased by the IHH from a
major shipping company owned by the Istanbul Municipality, which is run
by the ruling AKP party, it has emerged.

The ITIC said its report was based on an initial analysis of
statements taken from passengers onboard Mavi Marmara after it was
towed to the port of Ashdod last week, as well as findings from
computers seized by the IDF from IHH members.

"The operatives, who acted according to a clearly-defined internal
hierarchy, boarded the ship in the port of Istanbul without undergoing
a security inspection as opposed to the other passengers, who boarded
in Anatolia after a full inspection," the report said.

"The IHH operatives’ preparations included handing out walkie-talkies
as they boarded the ship, taking over the upper deck, setting up a
situation room for communications, and a briefing given to the
operatives two hours before the confrontation by IHH head Bülent
Yildirim, who was on board the ship and commanded his men," it
continued.

Close relations between IHH and Erdogan

The men were armed large quantities of knives, axes, metal cables,
metal pipes used as clubs, wrenches, and other weapons, the report
said. "They were also equipped with box cutters which had been
prepared on the upper deck in advance," it added.

"The passengers, including the IHH operatives, stated that there were
close relations between the organization and Turkish Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan and that the Turkish government was involved in
preparations for the flotilla," the report asserted.

A journalist onboard the Mavi Marmara, described as having good links
with the heads of the Turkish government and Bulent Yildirim, head of the
IHH, had stated, "The flotilla was organized with the
support of the Turkish government and Prime Minister Erdogan gave the
instructions for it to set sail. That was despite the fact that
everyone knew it would never reach its destination," according to the
report.

Files found in laptops seized from IHH members contained a letter
written in Turkish from IHH head Bülent Yildirim to Turkish President
Abdullah Gül. The letter requested Gal's assistance in efforts to
release an IHH operative, named as Izzat Shahin, from an Israeli
prison.

Sahin was arrested by Israeli security forces in the West Bank on
April 27 on suspicion transferring cash to Hamas under the guise of
charitable aid. He has since been deported from Israel "at the request
of Turkish officials," the report added.

Mavi Marmara purchased from AKP-run municipality of Istanbul

A second computer file showed that the "IHH purchased the Mavi Marmara
ship from a Turkish company called IDO... which was founded in 1987 by
the city of Istanbul."

"[The] IHH acquired the Mavi Marmara ship from the AKP-run
municipality of Istanbul. It is not conceivable that the IHH’s Gaza
operation could have been carried out absent high-level government
sanction," wrote Svante Cornell, a Swedish security expert who
specializes in Eurasia, in an article published on Monday.

Cornell, of Stokholm's Central Asia-Caucus Institute, said the IHH was
"an example of how NGOs are used in the foreign policy sphere,"
adding, "The IHH operates joint projects with the Turkish Agency for
International Development, and is reported to have been used by the
government in order to shore up Turkey’s position in northern Iraq by
distributing aid to populations there. The IHH has its origins in the
Orthodox Islamic Milli Görüş movement, from which the AKP
organizationally split in 2001."

"As such, the IHH is known as a dyed-in-the-wool Islamist movement,
which has been suspected and investigated repeatedly for alleged
involvement in arms shipment to Islamic forces in various conflicts,
such as Afghanistan and Bosnia. Leading former French counter-terror
magistrate Jean-Louis  Bruguière has repeatedly testified that the IHH
had ‘clear, long-standing ties to terrorism and Jihad’, including ties
to Al Qaeda in the late 1990s," Cornell added.

Ely Karmon, a senior researcher from the Herzliya-based Institute for
Counter-Terrorism, told The Jerusalem Post that since coming to power,
the AKP party has worked repeatedly to assist the IHH. After being
elected into office in 2001, the AKP government ended a major legal
investigation into the IHH which had begun 1996 and examined
suspicions that the organization transferred weapons and other aid to
terrorist organizations around the world, Karmon said.

In January, the IHH helped organize a convoy to Gaza which became
stranded at El-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula after being denied entry
into Gaza by Egypt, "Turkey enacted major pressure on  Egypt to let
the convoy into Gaza. The Egyptians eventually agreed," Karmon added.
An Egyptian soldier was killed during clashes between members of the
convoy and the Egyptian security forces.

Last week, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)  released
footage of statements made by Bulent Yildirim, head of IHH,  in Gaza
in February 2009.

During the speech, which was filled with references to “martyrdom,”
Yildirim said,  "All the peoples of the Islamic world would want a
leader like [Turkish prime minister] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan."
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