Middle East Monitor / July 3, 2023
Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has exposed a vast “ghost” network of dozens of operatives working for the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, in the latest Turkish operation to bust a foreign espionage ring.
According to the Turkish newspaper, Daily Sabah, the MIT recently uncovered a cell of 56 Mossad operatives, based primarily on confessions obtained from seven relevant people who were apprehended in an operation conducted in collaboration with the Istanbul Police Department’s Anti-Terrorism Branch.
Citing MIT documents, the paper reported that the spies were tied to nine networks overseen by nine senior Mossad agents based in the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv, and were responsible for the gathering of biographical intelligence on non-Turkish foreign nationals residing in Turkey.
The operatives used a series of methods including online routing, the tracking of vehicle movements through GPS, hacking into password-protected networks based on Wi-Fi devices and sourcing and identifying private locations. The physical tracking and following of targets was also conducted, particularly of individuals Mossad deemed necessary to surveil, and have meetings photographed.
Much of the work was reportedly supervised by Israelis of Arab origin, such as one named Soliman Agbaria, and the cell was made up of citizens from various Middle Eastern countries. Agents within Turkey and abroad communicated using single-use mobile phone lines based in Spain, England, Germany, Sweden, Malaysia, Indonesia and Belgium, all of which were owned by fake identities.
One example provided by the paper was that of an agent codenamed ‘Shirin Alayan’ who used a German phone line to instruct a Palestinian Mossad operative – Khaled Nijim – to set up fake news platforms and websites that would serve the purpose of attracting the attention of targets to certain articles, which would then infect the targets’ phones or devices with a virus when they clicked on links.
Those websites reportedly included the likes of najarland.com, almeshar.com, nasrin-news.com and hresource.co.uk.
A more international dynamic was also discovered by MIT, in that Mossad sent its Istanbul-based operatives of Arab origin to Arab states such as Lebanon and Syria, where they gathered intelligence to mark locations for potential or future Israeli drone strikes.
Examples include the deployment of agents to the Lebanese capital, Beirut, to explore its Haret Hreik municipality, where they are said to have identified the exact coordinates for a building in which the Hezbollah movement and its high-ranking political and military figures operate from on its third floor.
One of the nine network leaders, codenamed ‘Abdulla Qassem’ – supposedly a Jordanian living in Sweden – also remotely instructed an individual named Zeyd Saadeddin to photograph a strategically significant building in the Qudsiyeh district of the Syrian capital, Damascus, and to analyze its level of security.
Alongside those intelligence-gathering operations, Mossad also reportedly sent dozens of its agents, especially Turks, to Serbia, then Dubai and then Thailand’s capital, Bangkok – locations where Turkish citizens do not need a visa – in secret three-stop “touristic” trips. On the final leg of those trips, they were taken to a Mossad centre in Bangkok to advance their espionage skills.
The revelation is the latest of MIT’s and Turkish security services’ numerous operations to bust and dismantle Mossad spy cells and networks within Turkiye over the past few years, which appear to have increased significantly amid regional developments.
Israel’s spy agency and its operatives have not been the only targets of Turkish intelligence, as it has also exposed and arrested numerous Iranian intelligence cells within the country which have attempted to abduct dissidents. Mossad apparently remains, however, the most prominent agency to have infiltrated Turkey until now.