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      Associated Press Balancing Skewed Flotilla Coverage

      Worldwide news agency Associated Press took steps to balance its earlier skewed coverage of the Gaza flotilla confrontation.
      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 6/3/2010, 3:00 PM / Last Update: 6/3/2010, 5:30 PM

      IDF Spokesperson's Office

      The worldwide Associated Press has begun to backpedal from its skewed coverage earlier this week of the attack on Israeli commandos by Islamic militants aboard the flotilla vessel Mavi Marmara.

      AP, relied on by millions of readers, had reported that “The pro-Palestinian flotilla had been headed to Gaza with tens of thousands of tons of aid that Israel bans from Gaza,” one of several clearly incorrect claims. Israel transfers supplies to Gaza in enormous amounts weekly and allows those in need of Israeli medical care through the checkpoints. Israel had also offered to transfer the cargo from the ships to Gaza by land routes and was refused. 

      Muslim extremists were filmed by the vessel's own security cameras making their preparations to attack Israeli Naval commandos, in addition to the video evidence provided by IDF footage filmed from a hovering helicopter that caught the events on tape.

      Following the plethora of evidence proving Israel's claims that the vessel carried Muslim extremists prepared for a bloody confrontation rather than "peace activists carrying aid," the news service made an effort to correct the errors in its coverage.

      "A storm of YouTube videos, grainy army footage and interviews is beginning to provide a clearer picture of the clash," a new report said. "The accounts of Monday's events were sometimes conflicting and there was no way to independently confirm what happened."

      "Still, details emerging from the footage and interviews with Israeli commandos, defense officials and activists help explain how a voyage billed as an act of peaceful protest ended with a pre-dawn gunbattle — and a wave of international criticism aimed at Israel."

      "Israel's decision to stop the protest boats by sending troops to commandeer them seems to have been based on the assumption — based on past experience and the activists' own statements — that none of the passengers would fight. The soldiers practiced several scenarios, but none involved serious resistance, Israeli defense officials said."

      "The situation spiraled out of control when dozens of activists converged on the top deck and attacked the soldiers, clubbing them down as the troops rappelled from a helicopter onto the ship one by one."

      On Wednesday, in addition, Associated Press interviewed an investigative judge on the veracity of a claim that the Istanbul-based IHH charity organization which sponsored the flotilla, 'Insani Yardim Vakfi,' -- in English, the “Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief” -- was linked to terror. 

      The name is a misnomer, according to retired French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere.

      The 67-year-old former judge told the news service that the IHH had “clear, long-standing ties to terrorism and Jihad.” Currently the coordinator for the joint U.S.-European Union's terrorism finance tracking program, Bruguiere retired in 2007 to run for political office – a bid he lost. He is best known in France for his role in bringing to justice the convicted terrorist Carlos the Jackal. But Bruguiere also investigated the IHH in the late 1990s before retiring from his position as head of the country's judicial counter terrorism division, where he served for nearly 20 years.

      The judge told AP that IHH was involved in an Al-Qaeda-linked organization that had plotted to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in December 1999. It was Bruguiere who issued an international warrant for one of the operatives involved in the plot. He also testified in a U.S. federal court in the case, which involved Algerian terrorist Ahmed Ressam his former mentor, Algerian-Canadian terrorist Fateh Kamel. Both were later sentenced to prison terms.

      IHH board member Omer Faruk Korkmaz denied Bruguiere's statement on Wednesday, responding that the group is “a legal organization” and has “nothing to do with any illegal organization. We don't know Ahmed Ressam or Fateh Kamel,” Korkmaz said. “We don't approve of the actions of any terrorist organization in the world.”

      Bruguiere insisted, however, that “several members of Fateh Kamel's network worked at the IHH as a cover. It was too systematic and too widespread for the NGO not to know.” He added that he personally was involved in a 1998 raid by French and Turkish police at IHH headquarters in Istanbul, where weapons, false documents and other “incriminating” evidence was found.

      “It was clearly proven that some of the NGO's work was not charity – it was to provide a facade for moving funds, weapons and mujahedeen to and from Bosnia and Afghanistan,” the judge said.