GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs sources in Croatia confirmed on June 14, 2010, that a key Syrian intelligence officer had been onboard the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, during its attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010. The agent, named Jaser Mohamed Sabag, was a Syrian native and naturalized Bosnian citizen.
See Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, June 7, 2010: Did Turkey Declare War on Israel ... and the West?
It is understood that Sabag works directly for the Syrian Military Intelligence Service, Shu'bat al-Mukhabarat al-'Askariyya.
According to our sources, Sabag had worked in the Balkans liaising with regional Iranian intelligence (Vezarat-e Ettela'at va Amniat-e Keshvar: VEVAK) networks to coordinate support for Balkan jihadist networks, including the Turkish IHH (?nsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve ?nsani Yard?m Vakf?), which purchased the Marmara for $800,000 in April 2010 and — ostensibly — spearheaded the so-called Gaza flotilla.
This had, as outlined in the aforementioned report of June 7, 2010, confirmed the Turkish Government’s linkage to the terrorist support work of IHH in the Balkans, during which time the jihadist terrorist groups there, using the IHH links, had been used against Western targets. But more importantly, it highlighted the links between the Turkish Government — via the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (Milli ?stihbarat Te?kilat?: M?T) — with the Syrian Mukhabarat for many years in jihadist support operations, pre-dating the break-up in Turkish-Israeli relations. strong>1
The presence of Sabag onboard the Marmara raised a number of questions about the true nature of how the flotilla had been organized, funded and directed. It indicated, at a minimum, Syrian Government involvement, and, at most, that unwittingly many of the flotilla’s passengers had been used as cover in the intelligence gambit by Damascus and Ankara.
By the first week of June 2010, Sabag had already been deported by Israeli authorities to Turkey and our internal sources reported that by June 12, 2010, Sabag had left Turkey and returned to Sarajevo, along with Mukadera Tankok-Tanovic, a Turkish national and IHH “coordinator”.
The daily newspaper, Fokus, published in Banja Luka, Republica Srpska, Bosnia & Herzegovina, further reported that before working with jihadist networks in the Balkans, Sabag had been in charge of “intelligence affairs” for the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) where he established an effective working relationship with Halil Badia, the daughter of Abu Nidal (born Sabri Khalil al-Banna). Halil Badia, the report continues, assumed control of the ANO following her father’s death in Baghdad on August 16, 2002, and has since become “a main financier of the Wahabbist movement in B-H (Bosnia & Herzegovina)”.
Our sources confirmed that while Badia had been unable to access her late father’s Swiss bank accounts — which had been blocked several years ago as part of Western counter-terrorism efforts — she and her family “managed to withdraw a substantial part of the money from Austrian banks”. It was believed that a significant portion of this money had been redirected to Balkan-based networks.
That the money had flowed through Austria was not merely a coincidence: the Viennese Islamist community had, for some time, played a central support rôle in organizing jihadist activities in Bosnia.
Our sources also noted two key “Wahabbi support nodes” in the Austrian capital: one centered around the Sahaba “prayer room” in Vienna’s Seventh District and another grouped around the Tewhid mosque in the 12th District. Mohammed Porca, who runs the Tewhid mosque, made headlines in early 2008 in Vienna, where the news daily Der Standard reported him as being “engaged in a power struggle with the IZ (official Bosnian Islamic Community)”.
Porca has long been known to GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs. According to the new reporting in Fokus in June 2010, Porca was now involved with Badia in moving the ANO’s heretofore inaccessible finances into the Balkan region in support of “Wahabbi elements”.
The still emerging evidence of connections between Syrian intelligence operations in the Balkans, Bosnian jihadists, and the voyage of the Marmara raised serious questions for the West and particularly for NATO of which Turkey is a member about the extent to which the Turkish Erdogan Administration had been aware of these linkages when it gave permission for the Gaza flotilla to set sail. If, in fact, Prime Minister Reçep Tayyip Erdogan had known about the presence on the Marmara of a Syrian intelligence agent with deep, long-standing ties to the global jihad movement, further questions would be raised about the extent to which Istanbul has chosen to reorient its strategic posture.
However, there can be no doubt that the long-standing relationships between MIT, IHH, and the Shu'bat al-Mukhabarat al-'Askariyya — along with the relationships which all three have had with the various Saudi and Iranian organizations in the Balkans — facilitated, or at least led to, the Marmara provocation.
1. As well, the Turkish intelligence service, MIT, was clearly linked to the Bosnian terrorist/jihadist movement through the Kvadrat movement, which operated terrorist training in Bosnia, moving its operatives into the Russian Caucasus, to Chechnya, via safe-havens in Northern Cyprus, controlled by the Turkish Armed Forces, and then into the Russian Federation via Turkey.
Analysis by Jason Fuchs, UN Correspondent, and Gregory Copley, Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs.
(c) 2010 International Strategic Studies Association, www.StrategicStudies.org