The director of the Turkish-based Islamist group IHH that was behind the deadly May 2010 flotilla raid is under investigation by Turkish authorities for allegedly funding al-Qaida.
The Turkish daily Habertürk reported Friday that prosecutors are investigating claims that IHH head Bulent Yildirim has been secretly "providing financial aid to al-Qaida via his foundation."
Yildirim played a key role in organizing the 2010 flotilla and directed IHH operatives on the Turkish-led Mavi Marmara ship to prepare for a violent confrontation with Israel. Nine activists died after they attacked Israeli commandos with clubs, knives and other weapons.
Yildirim and IHH have extensive ties to Hamas and provide the terrorist group with funding. The U.S. government verified IHH's ties to Hamas in June 2010 and the U.S. State Department said the organization was under investigation the following month. IHH is also a member of the Union of Good, designated in 2008 by the U.S. for supporting and transferring funds to Hamas.
U.S. court documents show that IHH had ties to al-Qaida. During the April 2001 trial of "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam French intelligence expert Jean Louis-Bruguiere said IHH played an "important role" in the al-Qaida planned bomb plot. Bruguiere also told the Associated Press in June 2010 that IHH was "basically helping Al Qaeda when (Osama) bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil."
Bruguiere was part of a 1998 French and Turkish police raid at IHH headquarters in Istanbul, where they found weapons, explosives and bomb making instructions. Yildirim, who was also IHH's leader at the time, had directly conspired to "'recruit veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming holy war [jihad]. In particular, some men were sent into war zones in Muslim countries in order to acquire combat experience,'" according to an intelligence document written by Bruguiere in the mid 1990's and cited in a 2006 Danish report.
In May 2011, IHH and other Turkish groups denounced the killing of Osama bin Laden and called for the condemnation of "American terrorism." In an interview with a Turkish Islamist television channel that same month, Yildirim described preparations for an upcoming flotilla, from which IHH later withdrew. "We are not afraid," and "even if we sacrifice shaheeds [martyrs] for this cause, we will have justice on our side," Yildirim said.
In September 2011, IHH members were involved with delivering aid to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which is tied to al-Qaida and fighting to overthrow the Somali government.