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

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

Turkish forces raid IHH offices (photo credit: Reuters)
Turkish forces raid IHH offices
(photo credit: Reuters)
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 (IHH).
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 2010.
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 said.
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 reported.
“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.
Instead of 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 al-Qaida.
“IHH shall never give up helping Syrian people and standing by the side of the oppressed,” he said, according to the group’s website.
“Following [the] Mavi Marmara event, IHH was targeted by Israel, Neo-cons and those who wish [to] help [the regime in] Syria,” he said.
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.