Turkish group 'had ties to al-Qa'ida bomb plot'
The Turkish Islamic charity behind a flotilla of aid ships that was raided by Israeli forces on its way to Gaza had ties to terrorism networks, including a 1999 al-Qa'ida plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport, France's former top anti-terrorism judge said last night.
The Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, known by its Turkish acronym IHH, had "clear, long-standing ties to terrorism and Jihad", said former investigating judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere.
Mr Bruguiere, who led the French judiciary's counterterrorism unit for nearly two decades before retiring in 2007, didn't indicate whether IHH now had terror ties, but said it did in the late 1990s.
Some members of an international terrorism cell known as the Fateh Kamel network then worked at the IHH, he said. Kamel, an Algerian-Canadian, had ties to the nascent al-Qa'ida, Mr Bruguiere said.
Among Kamel's followers was Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who was arrested in Washington in December 1999 on his way to bomb LA International Airport.
"IHH had a role in the organisation that led to the plot," Mr Bruguiere said, re-iterating sworn testimony he made in a US Federal Court during Ressam's trial. Ressam is serving a 22-year sentence.
Mr Bruguiere issued an international warrant for Kamel, Ressam's former mentor, who was sentenced to eight years in prison on terror-related charges.
IHH vehemently denies ties to radical groups. The group is not among some 45 groups listed as terrorists by the US State Department's Office of the Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism.
French investigators found in the 1990s that "several members of Fateh Kamel's network worked at the IHH as a cover", Mr Bruguiere said. "It was too systematic and too widespread for the NGO not to know" their real goal, he said.
The former judge, renowned for tracking down convicted terrorist Carlos the Jackal, said he didn't believe the IHH could have been infiltrated by terrorists without its knowledge.