IHH reaches out to Somalia's "troubled regions" (IHH website, September 17, 2011).
The picture shows an IHH activist in the Al-Yasir relief camp,
which is controlled by the global jihad-affiliated Al-Shabaab
1. Prominent in the the coalition which dispatches flotillas to the Gaza Strip is the Turkish organization IHH, Insani Yardim Vakfi ("foundation for humanitarian assistance"). IHH is a radical Islamist organization, which maintains close connections with other anti-Israeli organizations around the globe to send flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip. IHH was the moving spirit behind the Mavi Marmara flotilla in May 2010, and its operatives aboard the ship were the hard core which fought against the IDF soldiers, supported by operatives from other radical Islamist Turkish organizations.
2. IHH is a radical Islamist humanitarian assistance organization, anti-Israeli, anti-West and sometimes anti-Semitic as well, as made clear by statements from its leader, Bülent Yildirim. The organization has a dual nature:
1) It is a humanitarian organization, undertaking broad humanitarian activities in emergency-stricken areas around the globe, especially in Muslim communities. They include the Gaza Strip, Somalia and Turkey itself (IHH recently sent teams to the area stricken by the earthquake in eastern Turkey). They bring tents, send shipments of food, run aid programs for orphans, provide medical assistance, run programs for vocational education, build mosques, etc.
2) It is an Islamist organization with a radical Islamist ideology. By participating in the flotillas and convoys sent to the Gaza Strip it supports Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. In addition, in the past it provided support for global jihad networks and was involved in a proposed terrorist attack in the United States (the "millennium attack," a mass-casualty planned for Los Angeles International Airport on Christmas Day, 2000).1 It was designated as a terrorist organization by Israel and Germany, and outlawed.
3. IHH represents itself as a human rights organization dealing exclusively with humanitarian activities, and it customarily hides or denies its radical, Islamist, jihadist identity, especially from the West. However, an examination of its activities during the 1990s and the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century, an analysis of the declarations made by its leaders, its violent activity during the Mavi Marmara flotilla and the confrontation of its operatives with the Egyptian security forces when prevented from entering the Gaza Strip – all indicate its violent, jihadist nature and its hostility to Israel, the Jewish people and the Western world in general.
IHH activity in Somalia – Update
4. Interviewed by Turkish TV, IHH leader Bülent Yildirim spoke of the organization's activity in Somalia and of the wider context in which he regards that activity (Turkish TV, Channel 7, September 23, 2011)2:
1) Since its founding, he said, IHH has taken upon itself to go to every location around the world where there is fighting.
2) The Mavi Marmara affair was not the first attempt made by IHH to "break a siege." For example, he said, in Bosnia IHH "was the first to break the siege, after 1,000 days3...There as well our members were killed...we were [also] the first organization which managed to enter east Turkistan to bring aid."4
3) IHH, he said, was using the same system in Somalia. No one dared enter the area controlled by Al-Shabaab. When IHH operatives arrived, they were shot at.
5. IHH does in fact conduct broad humanitarian assistance programs in Somalia and provides aid for the victims of the drought and famine ravaging the country. Its activity in Somalia is coordinated with a Somalian charitable society called the Zamzam Foundation (named for a sacred well in Mecca). In our assessment, as part of its humanitarian activities, supported by the Turkish government,5 IHH sent a ship called the Gazze to Mogadishu with humanitarian assistance, and announced its intention of sending the Mavi Marmara as well, on which IHH operatives attacked IDF soldiers in May 2010.6
Picture from the Zamzam Foundation website
6. As part of its humanitarian activities in Somalia, IHH also operates, admitted Bülent Yildirim, in areas controlled by Al-Shabaab, which has links to Al-Qaeda. In our assessment, Al-Shabaab allows IHH to operate because of its radical Islamist ideology and because in the past IHH had links to global jihad networks. Al-Shabaab, which seeks to overthrow the Somali government, is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States. Some of its operatives were apparently trained by Al-Qaeda and fought in its ranks in Afghanistan.
7. It was reported that on September 12, 2011, the Somali authorities detained two Turkish activists, one of them belonging to IHH. They had gone to the Al-Yasir relief camp without first having received government authorization. The camp is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Mogadishu in a region controlled by Al-Shabaab. The two activists were part of a group of nine (three from IHH and six local residents) who went to the relief camp with food and humanitarian assistance.
8. The American IPT and Turkish IHH websites reported that it was the first aid group to enter the region controlled by Al-Shabaab, which had banned aid agencies from operating in areas they controlled. Reportedly, the group was warmly received by Al-Shabaab operatives. An IHH operative (who remained anonymous) said that the IHH team would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to regions controlled by Al-Shabaab.7
9. Eventually the Somali authorities released the two Turkish activists after contacts had been organized between the Turkish ambassador in Somalia and the Somali president, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and the head of Somali intelligence. The humanitarian assistance coordinator of the Somali government told a Reuters' correspondent that "The Turkish aid workers were arrested because they did not coordinate with out national security. They met with al-Shabaab without clearance or approval from government security..."8 (ITIC emphasis).
10. IHH apparently operates in other areas controlled by Al-Shabaab. Murat Kabardan, Bülent Yildirim's deputy, said that the organization intended to bring assistance to a region controlled by Al-Shabaab using a vessel that was supposed to be sent to the port of Kismayo. The port is controlled by Al-Shabaab and is an important economic asset for the organization.9 The port was recently attacked from the air, after reports that on October 28, Al-Shabaab had decided to close it.10
The port of Kismayo in south Somalia (Al-Jazeera TV, December 21, 2008).
Unloading merchandise in the port pf Kismayo
11. The affair illustrates IHH's dual nature. On the one hand, it is a humanitarian organization whose activity in Somalia is part of its broader activities in distressed areas around the globe, where it provides humanitarian assistance, mainly for Muslim communities. On the other, it is a radical Islamist organization, anti-West and anti-Israeli, which supports Hamas and in the past supported global jihad networks. Its radical Islamist ideology facilitates its operation in areas controlled by terrorist organizations affiliated with with the global jihad. In the case of Somalia, its activities subvert the local authority and violate local law.
12. For additional information about IHH's radical Islamist nature and its ties to the global jihad, see the Appendix.
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1 For IHH's radical Islamist ideological and its former links to the Golan Heights, see Appendix A. The United States deliberated including it in the list of designated terrorist organizations and did not decide to include it.
2 According to the Turkish website Ilamigundem.com.
3 IHH was established in Germany in 1992 to respond to the war in Bosnia and at its inception was radical Islamist and jihadist. Its operatives maintained contact with global jihad networks, especially those operating in Bosnia and Chechnya.
4 He apparently referred to the Muslim population living in China. Bülent Yildirim accused China of killing Muslims in "north Turkistan." (For further information see the September 5, 2010 bulletin "In a speech given by IHH leader Bulent Yildirim two months prior to the Marmara flotilla, he presented a radical Islamic ideology with anti-Western and anti-Israeli motifs" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e123.pdf.)
5 Turkish prime minister Erdogan, speaking in New York, praised the role of Turkey in providing aid to Somalia and was sharply critical of the UN's inability to extend support (Zaman.com.tr website, September 25, 2011).
6 http://www.ihh.org.tr/gazze-gemisi-somali-ye-ulasti/en/; http://www.investigativeproject.org/3174/ihh-delivers-aid-to-somali-terrorist-group.
7 The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) is the website of a non-profit research group which maintains a comprehensive data center on radical Islamic terrorist groups. http://www.investigativeproject.org/3174/ihh-delivers-aid-to-somali-terrorist-group
8 IPT website.
9 Af.reuters.com website.
10 Somaliareport.com website.