Turkish police arrested at least 23 people on Tuesday as part of raids against
al-Qaida targets, including the offices of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation
Police raided IHH offices in the southern city of Kilis, which
borders Syria, and detained one person.
IHH was behind the Mavi Marmara
flotilla that sought to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in May
Israel Navy commandos boarded the ship, were attacked, and killed
nine of the attackers.
“Recent reports of the Turkish military
intercepting an alleged IHH weapons truck on the Syrian border was an indication
that the flotilla charity was being targeted,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president
for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Jerusalem
Post on Tuesday.
“There has long been ample reason to believe the group
was tied to Hamas, al-Qaida, and other terror groups in Syria,” he
Schanzer believes that the recent raids, coming amid a flurry of
arrests against people close to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK
Party, are a another heavy blow to the prime minister.
“IHH is largely
viewed as a state-sponsored NGO,” he said.
Turkish security forces made
raids simultaneously in six provinces, the Istanbul-based Hurriyet Daily News
“It was an unlawful operation performed to our Kilis Office
that IHH [uses to coordinate] its relief efforts to Syria,” IHH
secretary-general Yasar Kurtluay said at a press conference.
targeting the home of a suspect, the police decided to raid IHH’s office and
seize all of its computers, he said.
The operation was designed, said
Kurtluay, “to link IHH with a structure of terrorist organization in Turkey and
create such a perception on public opinion,” seeking to tie the group to
“IHH shall never give up helping Syrian people and standing by
the side of the oppressed,” he said, according to the group’s
“Following [the] Mavi Marmara event, IHH was targeted by Israel,
Neo-cons and those who wish [to] help [the regime in] Syria,” he
Turkey has maintained an open-door policy throughout the Syrian
civil war, providing a lifeline to rebel-held areas by allowing humanitarian aid
in, giving refugees a route out and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army organize
on its soil.
But the rise of al-Qaida- linked groups such as Jabhat
al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Syria,
near the Turkish border, has left Ankara open to accusations it is lending
support to radical Islamists.
Reuters contributed to this report.