Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization and the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office have uncovered and arrested an 11-person Mossad cell operating in Turkey, according to the Turkish Sabah newspaper.
The report from Turkey’s media, which is not currently viewed as independent from the government, said the investigation into the cell was carried out over a period of one and a half years. Turkish authorities reportedly discovered that the cell had targeted one company and 23 individuals who conducted commercial relations with Iran.
Turkish authorities used a threatening package sent by the cell to one of the targeted individuals to uncover the cell, according to the report.
The leader of the cell was identified as Selçuk Küçükkaya, Sabah reported. Küçükkaya was allegedly recruited by the Mossad through a member of the Gülen movement. While this movement is called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization by Turkish officials, Gülen was a long-time supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan until he started to grab more absolute power in recent years.
Latest alleged Mossad cell to be arrested in Turkey
Last October and December, Turkey announced separate alleged “busts” of large numbers of Mossad-affiliated agents.
The claims included astonishing arrest numbers, such as 44 persons in December and around 15 in October, which appeared very high for the clandestine agency to be handling at the same time.
Even if some or many of the arrests in Iran and Turkey in 2022 were not actually Mossad agents, such announcements are often a convenient cover for taking down political competitors. Nevertheless, the waves of announced arrests of Mossad agents in multiple countries in a short time period were unusual.
For example, the same Sabah report summarized the December 2022 arrest operation as focused on seven individuals, as opposed to the 44 detained at the time.
In 2021, a Mossad network of 15 Arabs was reported to have been caught by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization. That report came just weeks after Hamas-affiliated media claimed that Palestinian spies were working for the Mossad in Turkey.
Paradoxically, Turkish intelligence and the Mossad have worked together multiple times in recent years to thwart terrorist attacks on Turkish soil.
Last September, a joint Turkish and Mossad operation saved a large number of Israeli tourists’ lives.
In that incident, Iran planned to kidnap several Israeli tourists and diplomats in Istanbul, including the former ambassador and his wife, and already had operatives and logistical aspects of the operation in place. Some Israelis were spirited away just moments before a hit team would have been bearing down on them.
Turkish intelligence and local police arrested close to 10 suspects, including sharpshooters and local collaborators, at the Sol Hotel and three other rented apartments in the Istanbul area.
Iranian intelligence assets and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) operatives impersonated students, businessmen and tourists to entrap the Israelis.
Turkey said that the Mossad located the targeted Israelis and flew them to Israel in private planes.
While the Mossad initially had noted the dangers and given Turkey time to handle the issue alone, counterintelligence operations eventually were carried out in cooperation between the Mossad and Turkish authorities, whom then-prime minister Naftali Bennett praised.
“The operational efforts with the Turkish security forces have borne fruit,” he said in a press briefing. “In recent days, in a joint Israeli-Turkish effort, we thwarted a number of terrorist attempts, and numerous terrorists were arrested on Turkish ground.”
Seemingly right after the success of Mossad and Turkish intelligence efforts at saving Israelis in Turkey, Iran dismissed the powerful chief of IRGC intelligence, Hossein Taeb, Iran’s state TV reported last Thursday.
The station gave no further details about the dismissal of Taeb, who had been IRGC intelligence chief since 2009.
Curiously, since the Turkey-Mossad cooperation last September, this was the third Turkish claim that it had busted Mossad operatives.