According to the latest information coming out of Israel, the interrogation of passengers who were aboard the Marmara , the Gaza aid flotilla’s flagship, shows that most of those who attacked the Israeli Naval Commandos boarding the ship have direct and indirect Global Jihad ties.
The IHH, the Turkish group that organized this operation and had a large presence on the ship where the soldiers were attacked also has had ties with al-Qaida and has been designated as a global terrorst group by the U.S. government. Indeed, in the past this group was found to be involved in dispatching terrorists to a number of countries, including involvement in a terror attack in the United States (the would-be Millennium Bomber in Los Angeles).
There is also emerging evidence that interrogation of those captured on the ship shows that 40 to 60 men were organized in military-style units. They have no identification, but lots of money, and some were equipped with night vision equipment and bullet-proof vests.
So who is this “IHH” group who is responsible for yesterday’s violence?
The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief was establishedi n Turkey in 1992 by a member of the Turkish Refah Party, and was formally registered in Istanbul three years later. Better known by its Turkish name (Insani Yardim Vakfi)and acronym (IHH), the Foundation’s initial mission was to supply aid to Bosnian Muslims during their conflict with Christian Serbs in the Yugoslavian civil war. To this day, IHH continues to send aid to distressed areas throughout the Middle East – in the form of food, medicine, vocational education, and the construction of schools, hospitals, medical clinics, and mosques. According to Reuters, IHH “has been involved in aid missions in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq, Palestinian territories and other places.” In recent years, IHH has also established branch offices in a number of European countries.
While IHH is involved in the foregoing humanitarian activities, its overall objectives are much broader. Belying the dove of peace whose image appears on its logo, IHH overtly supports Hamas, is sympathetic to al Qaeda, and maintained regular contact with al Qaeda cells and the Sunni insurgency during the bloodiest stretches of the Iraq War. IHH has supported jihadist terror networks not only in Iraq, but also in Bosnia, Syria, Afghanistan, and Chechnya. According to Carnegie Endowment analyst Henri Barkey, IHH is “an Islamist organization” that “has been deeply involved with Hamas for some time.” A 2006 report by the Danish Institute for International Studies characterized IHH as one of many “charitable front groups that provide support to Al-Qaida” and the global jihad.
According to a French intelligence report, in the mid-1990s IHH leader Bülent Yildirim was directly involved in recruiting “veteran soldiers” to organize jihad activities, and in dispatching IHH operatives to war zones in Islamic countries to gain combat experience. The report also stated that IHH had transferred money as well as “caches of firearms, knives and pre-fabricated explosives” to Muslim fighters in those countries.
A 1996 examination of IHH telephone records showed that repeated calls had been made to an al Qaeda guest house in Milan and to Algerian terrorists operating in Europe. That same year, the U.S. government formally designated IHH as a terrorist organization with ties to extremist groups in Iran and Algeria, and as a facilitator of terrorism in Bosnia.
In December 1997 Turkish authorities, acting on a tip from sources claiming that IHH leaders had purchased automatic weapons from other regional Islamic militant groups, initiated a domestic criminal investigation of IHH. A thorough search of IHH’s Istanbul bureau uncovered a large assortment of firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions, and a “jihad flag.” Moreover, Turkish authorities seized a host of IHH documents whose contents led investigators to conclude that the organization’s members “were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.”
During the April 2001 trial of would-be “millenium bomber” Ahmed Ressam, it was revealed that IHH had played an “important role” in the plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999.
In December 2004 IHH organized an anti-American march in Istanbul, demanding an end to cooperation between American, British and Turkish intelligence agencies. The demonstration featured such slogans as “Murderer sent by the murderous United States, get out of the Middle East,” and “Long live the resistance.”
According to a report issued by a website close to Israeli military intelligence: “[S]ince Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, IHH has supported Hamas’ propaganda campaigns by organizing public support conferences in Turkey.” The report also states that IHH continues to operate widely throughout Gaza and to funnel large sums of money to support the Hamas infrastructure.
In January 2008 an IHH delegation met with Ahmed Bahar, chairman of Hamas’ council in the Gaza Strip. At the meeting, the delegation revealed the extent of the aid it had given Hamas during the preceding year and declared its intent to double that sum in the future.
In 2008 Israel banned IHH from the country because of the organization’s memberhip in the “Union of Good” (UOG), a Hamas-founded umbrella coalition comprised of more than 50 Islamic charities (most of which are associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood) that channel money and goods to Hamas-affiliated institutions. UOG is headed by Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi. In December 2008, the U.S. government designated UOG as a terrorist entity that was guilty of “diverting” donations that were intended for “social welfare and other charitable services,” and using those funds “to strengthen Hamas’ political and military position.”
In November 2009 IHH activist Izzat Shahin transferred tens of thousands of American dollars from IHH to the Islamic Charitable Society (in Hebron) and Al-Tadhamun (in Nablus), two of Hamas’ most important front groups posing as “charitable societies.”
From the very launch of this Guerrilla Flotilla, they were claiming the result of their little boat trip would be breaking through the blockade or Martyrdom. Like any terrorist-run operation, this flotilla was planning a violent conclusion.