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Police raid Islamic charity in Turkey

By Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz, CNN
January 14, 2014 -- Updated 2330 GMT (0730 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Turkish police target IHH offices as part of an operation against al Qaeda
  • Leaders of the charity suggest the investigation is the work of "Israeli infiltration"
  • In 2010, the IHH led ships that sought to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza
  • More recently, the Turkish charity has provided aid across its border to war-ravaged Syria

(CNN) -- Turkish police on Tuesday raided the offices of a Turkish Islamic charity on the border with Syria as part of an operation against the al Qaeda terror organization.

Leaders of the charity, known by the acronym IHH, denounced the police investigation, suggesting it was caused by "Israeli infiltration."

The police operation was "against aid organizations helping Syria, to try to stop aid, and against the IHH, because it is the largest charity organization in Turkey," Yasar Kutluay, the IHH's secretary general, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Kutluay went on to call the raid an "ugly operation" by groups that had been "infiltrated by Israel."

Turkey purges police force

The IHH gained international notoriety in 2010, when it led a convoy of ships that sought to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Israeli commandos launched a botched raid of the IHH-owned passenger ship Mavi Marmara that resulted in the deaths of eight Turks and an American citizen of Turkish descent.

The Mavi Marmara raid ruptured relations between Turkey and Israel, two close allies of the U.S. that had previously enjoyed military, economic and intelligence-sharing ties.

More recently, the IHH had taken the lead in providing humanitarian assistance across the border to war-ravaged Syria.

The organization, which says it does charity work in more than 100 countries, operated soup kitchens and distributed food in camps for displaced people in northern Syria. Its leaders also helped broker the release of Turkish journalists who had been held captive by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Over the last year, several al Qaeda-linked militias have taken root in opposition-controlled northern Syria.

The IHH announced on its official Twitter account that at least one of its employees had been arrested in Tuesday morning's police raid.

Is instability the 'new normal' for Turkey?

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