Turkish spies thwarted a plot orchestrated by Iran to kill an Israeli-Turkish businessman based in İstanbul, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a pro-government daily on Friday.
Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) discovered a network of nine operatives described as 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 Israel’s ambassador out of the country over the killing of protestors along the Gaza Strip border in 2018.
İstanbul 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 “establishing an organization for criminal purposes” and “membership in a group established for criminal purposes,” it added.
The men had been watched by MİT agents as they followed Geller at home and at work, collecting information for the assassination, Sabah said.
MİT also met with Israel’s Mossad spy agency in Ankara to inform them of the 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.