Turkish intelligence foiled Iranian cell attempting to kill Israeli businessman
Turkey's intelligence service uncovered an assassination attempt on Turkish-Israeli businessman Yair Geller and detained a number of suspects last autumn, Turkish sources familiar with the issue have told Middle East Eye.
MIT, Turkey's national intelligence organisation, captured a team of eight people who were being led by Iranian operatives following a months-long investigation and surveillance, the sources said.
The Turkish newspaper Sabah reported on Friday that Ankara had informed Israel of the assassination attempt, which was believed to be a response to the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in 2020 by Israeli agents.
According to the report, MIT believed that if the revenge killing took place, Turkish-Israeli relations would be further strained.
After discovering the plot, Turkish intelligence moved Geller, who owns a research and development company called CNC Advance Technologies, to a safe house in Istanbul protected by agents from Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad. They continued to follow the assassination team's movements, Sabah reported.
According to the newspaper, the team included seven Turkish citizens, who photographed Geller’s house and place of work, and who used multiple Turkish and Iranian phone numbers to avoid any counter-intelligence surveillance.
“The Iranian intel cell’s leader was intelligence officer Yasin Taheremamkendi, who is in Iran,” Sabah said.
“Iranian citizen Saleh Moshtagh Bigohouz was the Turkey officer for the cell. He and eight others have been arrested on related charges and sent to prison.”
'I decided to stay in Turkey'
Geller, 75, told Israel's state-owned TV channel Kan that he was glad to hear that the Iranian cell had been captured.
“I appreciate and thank everyone who took care to protect me,” he said.
“I am an Israeli businessman in Turkey. I have an R&D engineering company and one day I was informed that the Iranians were following me and wanted to assassinate me. I was advised to travel to Israel immediately. I decided to stay in Turkey.”
Turkey has uncovered a number of Iranian kidnapping and assassination attempts over the last few years, which have heightened tensions between the two countries.
Turkish sources with knowledge of the matter told MEE that another Iranian cell attempted to kidnap the Iranian dissident Shahnam Golshani last month.
OdaTV, a local Turkish news website, said that MIT had detained 11 suspects over the case, including an Iranian citizen.