'Turkey investigating IHH head for funding al-Qaida'

Bülent Yildirim, a key figure behind the 2010 Gaza flotilla, under investigation for funding terror group, Turkish media reports.

June 15, 2012 12:42
2 minute read.
IHH President Bulent Yildirim

IHH President Bulent Yildirim 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Turkish legal authorities are investigating allegations that one of the key figures behind the May 2010 Gaza flotilla, Bülent Yildirim, was involved in transferring funds to al-Qaida, the Turkish daily Habertürk reported on Friday.

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

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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.

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.

According to the Habertürk report, special prosecutors in both Istanbul and Diyarbakir, a large city in southeastern Turkey, are conducting separate investigations into claims that Yildirim has been secretly “providing financial aid to al-Qaida via his foundation.”

IHH, short for Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (Insani Yardim Vakfi), is an Islamic charity founded in the mid-1990s to provide aid to Bosnia’s Muslims. Since then it has been involved in charity operations in a number of Muslim and Middle Eastern countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon, and in aid missions to the Palestinian territories.

According to the Intelligence and Information Center, an Israeli NGO, IHH is affiliated with Hamas and the Union of the Good, an Islamic umbrella group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2006 a report issued by the Danish Institute for International Studies stated that IHH maintained links with al-Qaida and a number of “global jihad networks” during the 1990s. It also said the Turkish government had launched an investigation into IHH in December 1997 after receiving intelligence that it had bought automatic weapons from Islamist terrorists.

The Danish report said in addition that following this revelation, the Turkish government had launched a raid on the organization’s Istanbul offices, where authorities found weapons, explosives and instructions for bomb-making. It added that an examination of documents found at the IHH office indicated the group was planning to take part in terrorist activities in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia.

According to the study, 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.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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