Turkish counter-espionage against foreign spy networks leads to multiple arrests

Turkish counter-espionage against foreign spy networks leads to multiple arrests
A Turkish special forces police officer stands watch at a border outpost, in front of a section of the new Iran-Turkey border wall, Caldiran, Turkey, Sept. 27, 2021. (Getty Images)
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Updated 22 October 2021

Turkish counter-espionage against foreign spy networks leads to multiple arrests

Turkish counter-espionage against foreign spy networks leads to multiple arrests
  • Israeli, Russian and Iranian networks reportedly broken up after work by Turkish law enforcement
  • On Thursday, six suspects, including Russians, Ukrainians and Uzbeks, were jailed pending trial over an alleged plot against Chechen dissidents in Turkey

ANKARA: Turkey has arrested a number of individuals believed to be involved in espionage activities on behalf of other nations, it has been revealed.

A wide-ranging operation by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization recently detained at least 15 people linked with Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, for allegedly carrying out activities on Turkish soil against Israeli dissidents and Palestinian students.

As part of an investigation by the Istanbul public prosecutor’s office, according to pro-government newspaper Sabah, interrogation of the detainees is underway after they were taken to a prison in Istanbul. 

Conviction for espionage in Turkey carries a prison term of 15 to 20 years.

Around 200 people took part in the operation to apprehend the 15 detainees, surveilling them for over a year in secret, in what appears to have been one of the largest intelligence operations in Turkish history. 

The 15 were discovered after Turkish counterterrorism forces held separate operations in four provinces; the spy network is thought to have had five separate cells of three people each spread across Turkey. 

Members were allegedly in close contact with Mossad field officers, relaying information and documents through face-to-face meetings abroad, in Croatia, Romania, Kenya, and Switzerland. 

The cells, supposedly paid tens of thousands of dollars and euros for their work, conducted research into various associations and companies in Turkey, as well as Palestinian students enrolled in Turkish universities on courses that could have practical use in relation to defense or terrorist activities, and sent this information back to Mossad. 

Turkish intelligence believes several Palestinians reported missing since last month were part of the ring. A number of Syrians are also thought to have been involved.

Neither the Israeli or Turkish governments have commented on the reports.

Although ties between the two countries have been fragile over the years, with Turkish links to Hamas a particular sticking point, both countries’ presidents agreed on the need to improve bilateral ties after a phone call in July. 

“Until some details of that operation were disclosed, Turkey was blamed for the … Palestinian people who went missing in the country. There were even some reports claiming that Turkey was handing over some Hamas members to improve ties with Israel. But, if these latest allegations prove true, it seems that some Palestinian people in Turkey were secretly working for the Mossad in its own operations,” one expert, who requested anonymity, told Arab News. 

The Mossad ring was not the only espionage-related incident to occupy Turkish headlines in recent weeks.

On Thursday, six suspects, including Russians, Ukrainians and Uzbeks, were jailed pending trial over an alleged plot against Chechen dissidents in Turkey, held on charges of espionage and preparing armed actions targeting opposition figures in the country. 

After being initially detained in the southern resort province of Antalya, they were transferred to Maltepe prison in Istanbul, a city home to several thousand Chechens. 

Turkey also recently detained eight people, including two Iranian spies and six locals, over a plot to kidnap a former Iranian military official in the eastern province of Van, some 100 km from the border with Iran. 

The operation to apprehend the eight came after Turkey briefly detained a member of the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul in February, in connection with a probe into the assassination of an Iranian dissident in Turkey two years ago. 


Minister: No cases of Omicron variant in Egypt, country prepared for all outcomes

Minister: No cases of Omicron variant in Egypt, country prepared for all outcomes
Updated 04 December 2021

Minister: No cases of Omicron variant in Egypt, country prepared for all outcomes

Minister: No cases of Omicron variant in Egypt, country prepared for all outcomes
  • On Friday Egypt recorded 933 new cases of COVID-19 and 49 deaths

CAIRO: Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the acting Egyptian minister of health, confirmed no cases of the new coronavirus Omicron variant have been found in the North African country.

Abdel Ghaffar said recent studies had taken samples from all of Egypt’s governorates, so far failing to report a single case.

He added that no country is able to prevent the entry of any mutation, but that the government was ready for all variants of the virus.

Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, a spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Health, denied claims that two people were infected with the Omicron variant on a plane from Ethiopia, and also denied the arrival of an Egyptian citizen carrying the mutation in Cairo on a plane from South Africa.

He stressed people would need to continue to adhere to the precautionary measures implemented at all entry points to the country. 

The Ministry of Health decided to conduct rapid COVID-19 tests for those flying into Egypt from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini, sending back any positive cases on the plane they arrived on, or quarantining them if their final destination was Egypt. 

The minister stressed that the state’s procedures are within the framework of preventing the entry of the Omicron variant into Egypt, and added that when a case is identified, it will be announced with full transparency.

On Friday Egypt recorded 933 new cases of COVID-19 and 49 deaths, bringing the total number of cases recorded in Egypt to 361,368, of which 299,434 have recovered, and 20,643 deaths.


Tunisia’s union calls for early elections, says democratic gains are threatened

Tunisia’s union calls for early elections, says democratic gains are threatened
Updated 04 December 2021

Tunisia’s union calls for early elections, says democratic gains are threatened

Tunisia’s union calls for early elections, says democratic gains are threatened
  • The UGTT union, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, is a key political player in Tunisia

TUNIS: Tunisia’s powerful UGTT union called for early elections on Saturday, saying it was concerned for the country’s democratic gains because of the president’s reluctance to announce a roadmap for political reforms.
UGTT leader Noureddine Taboubi’s comments, in a speech to thousands of his supporters, put more pressure on President Kais Saied, more than four months after he seized all political powers.
“We supported July 25 because it was an opportunity to save the country and implement reforms ... but we have become afraid for Tunisians’ democratic gains because of the excessive reluctance to announce a roadmap,” Taboubi said.
He added that the president should call for a dialogue with political parties and national organizations that includes reviewing the electoral law and agreeing on early and transparent elections.
The UGTT union, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, is a key political player in Tunisia.
Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the government on July 25, installing a new prime minister and announcing he would rule by decree. Critics denounced his move as a coup.
The president has defended his takeover as the only way to end governmental paralysis after years of political squabbling and economic stagnation. He has promised to uphold rights and freedoms won in the 2011 revolution.
Saied also promised to end the emergency state quickly but has not given a date for this, and pressure has mounted for him to present a roadmap to return to parliamentary democracy.


Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines 

Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines 
Updated 04 December 2021

Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines 

Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines 

LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut. 

There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan and Harib, the major general told Al-Arabiya, noting that army forces cut the Houthis’ supply line between Bayhan and Harib.

He explained that military operations continued on all fronts, with the southern front seeing most of the action. He also noted the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s support with airstrikes. 

“Marib is not besieged, and the Houthis are far from achieving this,” he said. 

He added that most of those fighting for the Houthis were children and young men. 

“They do not care about the children of Yemenis who are killed by the dozens every day,” he said, referring to the Houthi militia. 

The coalition announced on Friday night that it had destroyed a ballistic missile launcher south of Sanaa.

The coalition added that it also destroyed a “mine-making workshop” in the capital, stressing that it had taken “preventive measures to spare civilians and civilian structures from collateral damage” during the airstrikes.


Clashes rock Arab town in Israel, alleged car-rammer killed

Clashes rock Arab town in Israel, alleged car-rammer killed
Updated 04 December 2021

Clashes rock Arab town in Israel, alleged car-rammer killed

Clashes rock Arab town in Israel, alleged car-rammer killed
  • The chaos comes amid a wave of violent crime in Israel’s Arab community that shows no sign of abating

UMM AL-FAHM, Israel: Police on Friday shot and killed a man in an Arab town in northern Israel who had allegedly been involved in a car-ramming attack that wounded two officers, Israeli officials said.
The incident capped an eruption of communal violence in Umm Al-Fahm, including armed clashes among residents. On Thursday, a man was shot and killed in the town. Israeli police and firefighters raced to the community as gunfire rang out and buildings were set ablaze.
The chaos comes amid a wave of violent crime in Israel’s Arab community that shows no sign of abating, despite far-reaching action announced in recent months by Israeli authorities.
Friday’s incident began when paramilitary Border Police opened fire on a vehicle speeding toward them, fatally shooting one man and wounding the other in the car, who was arrested after receiving medical treatment, Border Police said. They said the two officers suffered light to moderate wounds.
They said a gun and ammunition were found in the car, and that the two men were suspected of involvement in violent family disputes that have rocked Umm Al-Fahm in recent months. Authorities said the car-ramming was not politically motivated.
Arab towns across Israel have seen a major escalation in violence in recent years driven by organized crime and family feuds. At least 117 Arabs have been killed in 2021, the highest number on record, according to the Abraham Initiatives, which promotes Jewish-Arab coexistence. The crime rate among Arabs far exceeds their 20 percent share of the population.
Arab citizens of Israel have the right to vote, most speak fluent Hebrew, and they have a large presence in the country’s universities and medical profession. But they face widespread discrimination, especially with housing.
They have close familial ties to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and largely identify with their cause, leading many Jewish Israelis to view them with suspicion. Jewish-Arab violence erupted across Israel during the Gaza war in May.
Arab activists have long accused police of ignoring crime in their communities. Israeli officials have touted a number of initiatives in recent years, including larger budgets for law enforcement in Arab communities, but police say local leaders could do more to help them.
Israel’s current government pledged major action against crime in Arab communities in August as it announced a wave of arrests. That was a central demand of a small party that made history this year by being the first Arab faction to join a ruling coalition.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed support for the police on Friday, calling for improved security and further dialogue with Arab leaders.


Arab coalition destroys ballistic missile launch pad in Yemen’s capital

Arab coalition destroys ballistic missile launch pad in Yemen’s capital
Updated 04 December 2021

Arab coalition destroys ballistic missile launch pad in Yemen’s capital

Arab coalition destroys ballistic missile launch pad in Yemen’s capital

RIYADH: The Arab coalition destroyed a ballistic missile launch pad and a warehouse used to build drones in Yemen’s capital, Al Ekhbariya reported on Saturday.
The coalition has carried out multiple sorties in the past few weeks to hamper Houthi militia operations in and around Sanaa.
The launch pad destruction in southern Sanaa also killed experts, the coalition said, adding that a mine-making and drone-assembly workshop was also destroyed.
The coalition said they took the necessary precautions to safeguard civilian life during the operations.
The near daily attacks by the militia on Saudi civilian infrastructure using drones has reduced considerably as the coalition has gone after specific targets behind the persistent attacks.
Experts belonging to Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have been killed by the coalition airstrikes in recent weeks.
The Yemeni government is engaged in a fierce resistance in the governorate of Marib, a resource-rich region coveted by the Iran-backed group.
On Thursday, the coalition said it carried out nine operations against militia targets in Marib in the past 24 hours, killing 45 fighters and destroying six military vehicles.
Government forces also liberated a large swathe of land in the southern governorate of Shabwa on Thursday.
Backed by air cover from the Arab coalition, government troops pushed deeper into Houthi-controlled Bayhan and Ousylan districts, expelling militia fighters from wide areas and taking control of a strategic road that connects the two districts, a military official told Arab News on Thursday.
The Arab coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis, after the militia seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014.
In March, Saudi Arabia announced a roadmap called the Riyadh Initiative to halt fighting in Yemen and reopen Sanaa airport, as well as continuing talks to find a solution to the conflict. The proposal was seen as a welcome step internationally, but has been rejected by Houthi leadership.
The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.
Saudi relief agency, KSrelief, has poured billions of dollars worth of aid into Yemen and has hundreds of projects focusing on food and health.
In July, The World Food Programme welcomed Saudi contributions to the fund saying humanitarian action in Yemen could not be sustained without it.