A hardcore of 40 Turkish jihadis on board the Mavi Marmara was responsible for the violence that led to nine deaths and dozens of injuries on the flotilla taking aid to Gaza, the Israeli government claimed on Wednesday.
The allegation came as Turkish newspapers reported that three of the four Turks killed in the onslaught had declared their readiness to become martyrs.
“I am going to be a martyr. I dreamed about it,” Ali Haider Banjinin, 39, from Kurdistan, told his family before leaving to join the flotilla, according to one report.
The brother-in-law of retired engineer Ibrahim Bilgen, 61, told another paper that “martyrdom suited him very much. Allah gave him a death he desired.”
A third Turkish casualty, Ali Akbar Yertilmis, a father of four from Ankara, had “dreamt of becoming a martyr”, a friend was quoted as saying.
“Roughly 40 people on board were jihadis who came for violence,” a government official said. “They were preparing to attack, to kill and to be killed.” The boat was carrying more than 600 passengers, around half of them Turkish nationals.
However, the source declined to confirm a report in Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, that some of those on board the Mavi Marmara may have had connections with Al Qaeda.
“There is no hard evidence of links with Al Qaeda,” the official said. He added that the information gleaned from
interrogations of those arrested was insufficient to secure convictions.