Photos: Israeli raid sparks widespread protests

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  1. Relatives embrace over the coffin of one of the victims of Israel's deadly raid on aid ships bound for Gaza at the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on Thursday June 3. Nine people, eight Turks and a U.S. national of Turkish origin, were killed in Monday's pre-dawn raid by Israeli forces on the Turkish ferry, Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in an aid flotilla aiming to break the blockade of Gaza. (Mustafa Ozer / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Israeli Arab lawmaker Hanin Zoabi, right, who was on board the Gaza-bound flotilla when it was raided by Israeli forces Monday, attempts to speak at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, as Anastassia Michaeli, of the ultra-nationalistic Yisrael Beteinu party, center, is escorted off of the podium, in Jerusalem. Zoabi, an Arab lawmaker who sailed with the activists, was heckled when she took the podium in the Israeli parliament Wednesday. "Go to Gaza you traitor," Miri Regev, a lawmaker in the ruling Likud Party, screamed in Arabic. Michaeli was escorted out of the plenum after yelling abuse at Zoabi. (David Vaaknin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A young Muslim girl wears a Palestinian scarf as she performs a special prayer in support of Palestinians in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur. (Samsul Said / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Imams and mourners pray behind the Turkish flag-wrapped coffins of activists, who were killed when Israel seized a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza, during a funeral ceremony at Fatih mosque in Istanbul. (Murad Sezer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Muslim activists shout slogans during a rally denouncing Israel's raid on a pro-Palestinian aid flotilla to Gaza, in Jakarta, Indonesia, (Achmad Ibrahim / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Palestinians ride boats during a protest at the Gaza Seaport against Israel's interception of of Gaza-bound ships. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a televised address at his office in Jerusalem June 2, 2010. Defending Israel's enforcement of its blockade of Gaza, Netanyahu said on Wednesday it was vital for the country's security and would stay in place. (Jim Hollander / Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Activists, seized during an Israeli commando raid on an aid convoy sailing to Gaza, are hugged by relatives following their arrival in Jordan, after crossing the Allenby Bridge crossing point between Israel and Jordan Wednesday. (Muhammad Hamed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An activist, arrested aboard a Gaza-bound ship, places his hands against the window of a bus as it leaves Ella prison in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Israel began expelling all activists seized during the raid on an aid convoy sailing to Gaza. (Alberto Denkberg / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A Palestinian fisherman sits on his boat on the second day of a general strike at the port in Gaza City. Palestinians declared a three-day general strike following Israel's naval raid on an aid flotilla. (Adel Hana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Yemenis in Sanaa demonstrate Tuesday against the Israeli raid and decision to stop the convoy of ships reaching Gaza. Israeli officials have vowed to prevent any other ships from reaching the coastal territory. (Mohamed Huwais / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Police clash with protesters during a demonstration in Paris, France, Monday. France's President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Israel of a "disproportionate use of force" during the convoy raid in which nine people died. (Lucas Dolega / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A policeman stands over a handmade Star of David during a demonstration by Palestinians living in Greece and pro-Palestinian supporters in Athens. A Greek non-governmental organisation said Israeli forces in helicopters and inflatable boats fired on a Greek vessel in the aid convoy. (Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Police drag a protester during a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Athens. (Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Demonstrators protest against Israel in Taksim square, Istanbul. Three or four of the nine on the aid convoy who died are thought to have been Turkish. (Leonhard Foeger / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Turkish protesters shout anti-Israel slogans after the deadly raid on aid ships en route to Gaza. (Tolga Bozoglu / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Palestinian colleagues place an activist onto the back of a truck after she was wounded during a protest against Israel's interception of aid ships sailing to the Gaza strip at the Kalandia checkpoint in the West Bank town of Ramallah. (Atef Safadi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A protester cries during a demonstration at Taksim square in Istanbul. (Thanassis Stavrakis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Egyptian anti-riot soldiers prepare to surround an anti-Israel demonstration in Cairo, Egypt. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Left-wing Israelis hold up a Free Gaza banner on the beach in the southern town of Ashdod, Israel. (Jim Hollander / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Lebanese leftists and Palestinians carry a giant Turkish flag during a protest in Beirut against Israel's interception of aid ships sailing to the Gaza Strip. (Sharif Karim / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Israeli police escort a wounded passenger who was with the Gaza aid flotilla as he is brought to Barzilay hospital in the southern city of Ashkelon. (David Buimovitch / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. This video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH purports to show Israeli soldiers boarding a vessel in international waters off the Gaza coast. (IHH via APTN) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. An Israeli naval vessel (bottom) patrols beside one of the six ships in the controversial convoy in the Mediterranean Sea. (Uriel Sinai / Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. An Israeli military ship (left) intercepts the Gaza-bound aid flotilla during the pre-dawn raid. (Uriel Sinai / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Israeli Navy soldiers stand guard on a missile ship as the Israeli Navy intercepts the convoy. (Uriel Sinai / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 6/2/2010 7:24:00 PM ET 2010-06-02T23:24:00

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-Qaida plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport, France's former top anti-terrorism judge said Wednesday.

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," former investigating judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Bruguiere, who led the French judiciary's counterterrorism unit for nearly two decades before retiring in 2007, didn't indicate whether IHH now has terror ties, but said it did when he investigated it in the late 1990s.

"They were basically helping al-Qaida when (Osama) bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil," he said.

Some members of an international terrorism cell known as the Fateh Kamel network then worked at the IHH, he said. Kamel, an Algerian-Canadian dual national, had ties to the nascent al-Qaida, Bruguiere said.

Arrested in al-Qaida plot
Among Kamel's followers was Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who was arrested in the U.S. state of Washington in December 1999 on his way to bomb Los Angeles International Airport as part of an al-Qaida plot.

"IHH had a role in the organization that led to the plot," Bruguiere said, reiterating sworn testimony he made in a U.S. Federal Court during Ressam's trial. Ressam is serving a 22-year prison sentence.

Bruguiere issued an international warrant for Kamel, Ressam's former mentor, who was extradited from Jordan to France in 1999 and 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 U.S. State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Nine people on board the IHH flotilla were killed by Israeli forces on Monday.

"We are a legal organization," IHH board member Omer Faruk Korkmaz said late Wednesday in response to Bruguiere's statements. "We have nothing to do with any illegal organization," he said.

Video: U.S. caught between allies in flotilla raid "We don't know Ahmed Ressam or Fateh Kamel," Korkmaz said. "We don't approve of the actions of any terrorist organization in the world."

French investigators found in the 1990s that "several members of Fateh Kamel's network worked at the IHH as a cover," Bruguiere said. "It was too systematic and too widespread for the NGO (non-governmental organization) 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.

"It's hard to prove, but all elements of the investigation showed that part of the NGO served to hide jihad-type activities," Bruguiere said. "I'm convinced this was a clear strategy, known by IHH."

Weapons, false documents
The judge said he was personally involved in a raid with French and Turkish police at IHH headquarters in Istanbul in 1998, where they found weapons, false documents and other "incriminating" material.

"It was clearly proven that some of the NGO's work was not charity, it was to provide a facade for moving funds, weapons and mujahedeen to and from Bosnia and Afghanistan" — areas focused on by Islamic militants then.

In Istanbul, Korkmaz, of IHH, confirmed the late '90s police raid but denied that any weapons were found and said there was no evidence found of links to militancy.

Bruguiere would not specify how many members of Kamel's terror cell worked at IHH or give their names, but he said one of the suspects, a man from Bosnia, appeared in another terror-related case as recently as 2005 — though there was no indication at the time that the man still had ties to IHH.

Elements within the charity supported jihadi operations in the 1990s, Bruguiere said, before adding: "I don't know whether they continued to do so" more recently.

"But it seemed clear at the time that it was thanks to a measure of political backing within the Turkish government that it (IHH) could continue to operate," despite the strong suspicions against it, Bruguiere said.

Bruguiere retired from the judiciary in 2007 when he took part in an election to become a lawmaker in the conservative party of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He lost his bid.

Bruguiere, 67, is now the coordinator for the European Union in a terrorism finance tracking program jointly run with the United States.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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