200-person team from the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) exposed that a network of operatives working for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad had been covertly carrying out activities against Israeli opponents and foreign students in Turkey.
The network, which consisted of five separate cells of three people, was tracked by MIT units for a year. After the information was shared with police, counterterrorism forces caught the 15 spies in a secret operation carried out on Oct. 7 in four provinces.
According to reports, the spies had been providing Mossad information on foreign students enrolled in Turkish universities, especially those who they think could work in the defense industry in the future. The investigation revealed that one of the cells was particularly important as its members were tasked with contacting Mossad field officers and meeting with them abroad.
During these meetings, information and documents deemed significant for Israel were relayed to field officers, known as “case officers” in intelligence terminology. Mossad paid cell members varying amounts for private information on students living in Turkey. One of the spies, A.B., was one of the most important members of the network and was entrusted with investigating the conditions of Palestinians living in Turkey. The spy acted as a courier for payments and was reported missing in Istanbul’s Maltepe district in June 2021 in an attempt to mislead security forces. However, MIT was already carrying out surveillance on the cells at the time.
The investigation revealed that A.B. was in contact with A.Z., a field officer and Israeli passport-holder. A.B. was paid $10,000 (TL 92,892) this year for his espionage activities.
Another important member of the network, R.A.A., was also listed as a missing person. It is known that he was in the Croatian capital Zagreb where he met with Mossad field managers over June 27-28, 2021. R.A.A. also received payments of $1,000 and $1,200.
The third member of the cell, M.A.S., traveled to Zurich twice on Mossad’s orders in addition to meeting with the intelligence agency’s field officials, most frequently with an official with the initials M.C. Just like the other two members of this cell, M.A.S. was reported as missing.
The members of the espionage network were instructed to gather information on Palestinians attending Turkish universities and to find out what opportunities they are provided by the government and municipalities. The network then used this information to compile profiles on individuals to be sent to Mossad officials abroad through encrypted, web-based programs. The network also looked into various associations and organizations operating in Turkey and shared the findings with the Israeli secret service.
The spy network used the Protonmail application, which allows the encryption of Microsoft Word files, to relay intelligence. Another program taken advantage of was SafeUM, which generates fake phone numbers that cell members used to communicate with Mossad administrators undetected from applications like WhatsApp.
In return for the reports, the 15 Mossad agents were transferred payments via services like Western Union and Moneygram, and in some cases were compensated in Bitcoin. The agents also used a courier system to transfer funds, using jewelry stores and markets as hubs.
The investigation is expected only to deepen and a comprehensive indictment will be prepared once MIT’s expert teams complete their interrogations of the spies.