The U.S. government has verified that IHH, the Turkish-based organization that launched the Mavi Marmara ship raided by Israel on Monday, has ties to Hamas.
Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley told reporters Wednesday: "'We know that IHH representatives have met with senior Hamas officials in Turkey, Syria and Gaza over the past three years,'" and "'That is obviously of great concern to us.'"
In addition, French intelligence expert Jean Louis-Bruguiere stated in an interview with the Associated Press that IHH leaders "were basically helping al-Qaida when (Osama) bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil."
In 2002, Bruguiere was cited in U.S. federal court documents during the prosecution of Abdurahman Alamoudi stating that IHH played an "important role" in the Al-Qaeda planned Millennium bomb plot.
Bruguiere reiterated that claim Wednesday, saying "IHH had a role in the organization that led to the plot."
In 1998, Bruguiere was involved in a raid with French and Turkish police at IHH's headquarters in Istanbul. Thereafter, "It was clearly proven that some of the NGO's work was not charity, it was to provide a facade for moving funds, weapons and mujahedeen to and from Bosnia and Afghanistan," Bruguiere said during the interview. While IHH supported jihadi operations in the 1990s, Bruguiere argues, "It seemed clear at the time that it was thanks to a measure of political backing within the Turkish government that it (IHH) could continue to operate."
Despite IHH's terrorist connections, the group still enjoys Turkish political backing. In May, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told organizers of the flotilla that he would support them to "break the oppressive siege on the Gaza Strip."
New evidence about IHH's Mavi Marmara ship is also surfacing. In a column, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren detailed some of the material soldiers found on board:
"First, about 100 of those detained from the boats were carrying immense sums in their pockets — nearly a million euros in total. Second, Israel discovered spent bullet cartridges on the Mavi Marmara that are of a caliber not used by the Israeli commandos, some of whom suffered gunshot wounds. Also found on the boat were propaganda clips showing passengers 'injured' by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred."
In fact, three of the four Turks killed on the ship, expressed their desire to die as martyrs.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden defended Israel's decision to stop the flotilla, saying, "Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interests."
"So what's the big deal here?" he asked. "What's the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it's legitimate for Israel to say I don't know what's on that ship. These guys [Hamas] are dropping 3,000 rockets on my people."