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Factbox: Turkish charity group behind Gaza-bound convoy

(Reuters) - Here are some facts about the Turkish charity group that organized the aid convoy for Gaza which was stormed by Israeli marines on Monday while at sea. At least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed.

-- The Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) is an Islamic charity group that was formed to provide aid to Bosnian Muslims in the mid-1990s. It has been involved in aid missions in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq, Palestinian territories and other places, according to Turkish media.

-- Turkey’s Islamist-leaning AK Party government publicly supported the flotilla, urging Israel to let it pass and saying the initiative was purely humanitarian. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc denied Ankara gave any instructions to the IHH. The IHH has been involved in sending previous aid convoys to the Gaza Strip, which has been under an intensified blockade by Israel and Egypt since Hamas Islamists seized control in 2007.

-- Izzet Sahin, who according to his website works for the IHH’s foreign affairs department, was arrested by Israeli security forces in April on suspicion of aiding Palestinian organizations banned by Israel, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service said earlier this month. He was arrested while traveling from Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to Jerusalem. Sahin had been living in the West Bank since November and was enrolled as a student at Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

-- IHH President Bulent Yildirim was aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish cruise ship carrying 581 people which was part of the convoy. At least nine activists on the Mavi Marmara were killed when Israeli marines boarded the ship.

-- Serkan Nergis, a spokesman for IHH, told Reuters: “We don’t have anything against Israel. Our only aim was to carry aid to the people of Gaza. But for Israel, regardless of your religion or your nationality, if you help the people of Gaza you will be declared a terrorist.”

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackly and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; editing by Tim Pearce