Turkish spies thwarted a plot orchestrated by Iran to kill an Israeli-Turkish businessman based in Istanbul, a pro-government daily reported Friday.
Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) discovered a network of nine operatives dubbed an “Iran assassination team” plotting to kill Yair Geller, the Sabah daily reported.
Geller has businesses in the aviation-defense industry as well as in technology and software, the daily added.
The assassination was supposed to be in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in 2020 which Iran blamed on Israel, Sabah claimed.
Turkey at the time condemned Fakhrizadeh’s assassination as an act of “terrorism.”
Sabah’s story comes as Turkey seeks a rapprochement with Israel after Ankara ordered out Israel’s ambassador over the killing of protesters along the Gaza Strip border in 2018.
Istanbul police launched an operation to detain the nine men “a few days ago,” the newspaper said, but the leader of the network is apparently in Iran.
Eight have been arrested on charges including “setting up an organization to commit crime” and “being a member of a group set up to commit crime,” it added.
The men had been watched by MIT agents as they followed Geller at home and at work, collecting information to prepare the assassination, Sabah said.
MIT also met with Israel’s Mossad spy agency in Ankara to inform them of the plot’s next step to kill Geller. He was taken to a “safe house” shortly after, it added.
The newspaper even claimed the plot was an attempt to “derail Turkey-Israel relations” after “positive steps were taken” to improve ties.
There had been high hopes in Ankara that Israeli President Isaac Herzog would pay an official visit to Turkey this month but it is now expected by Turkey to be in March.
Turkey and Iran have historically close economic ties but have found themselves on opposite sides of regional conflicts, including in Syria.
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