Behind Ocalan's Capture: Deceit, Abduction -- and the Mossad?

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The capture of Ocalan.

Bloodshed at Israel's Berlin consulate has highlighted speculation over whether israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, helped catch Abdullah Ocalan. Even if Israel had no hand in Turkey's capture of the rebel Kurd, his followers are now acting on that speculation. The Berlin drama followed reports on German television -- attributed to unnamed "Western intelligence sources" -- that Israeli intelligence may have played a role in snagging Ocalan.

The Israeli government late Tuesday strongly denied any involvement. "It was strange to see them actually issuing a denial on the basis of speculative reports," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "But it was clearly a good idea given what happened in Berlin." Turkey on Wednesday boasted that its commandos had netted Ocalan in an "undercover operation," loaded him blindfolded onto a private jet and flown him to an island prison off Turkey. The claim of a covert operation certainly bears up in light of the conflicting accounts, by Greece and Kenya, of Ocalan's capture. Greece says it had given Ocalan temporary refuge at its diplomatic compound in Kenya, hoping to secure him sanctuary in a neighboring African country. Greek foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos said Tuesday Ocalan was "tricked into handing himself over" to Kenyan authorities on Monday, and had left the embassy compound with Kenyan officials. "He chose, despite our advice, to go with the Kenyan authorities to the airport," Pangalos said, ostensibly to fly to Amsterdam. Greece believes he was captured by the Turks en route.

The Kenyans were furious at the insinuation that they'd sold out Ocalan, especially since they are wary of being drawn into any international conflict after last year's devastating bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. Dr. Bonaya Godana, Kenya's foreign minister, said his government didn't know Ocalan was even in the country and ordered his removal as soon as it found out. Insisting that Kenyan security personnel would not have violated the diplomatic immunity of the compound, Dr. Godana claimed the Greeks had escorted Ocalan to the airport and flown him out of the country.

The discrepancy between those two accounts leaves ample room for a covert operation. Eyewitness accounts cited by Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, the Associated Press and Ocalan's German attorneys suggest that Ocalan was lured or dragged out of the embassy compound by men who were -- or were at least believed to be -- Kenyan security officials.

The speculation over Ocalan's capture is not so much over whether there was a covert operation, but over who may have been involved. Greece on Tuesday hinted that Washington may have helped the Turks find Ocalan. The U.S. had certainly supported Turkey's efforts to extradite the fugitive and charge him with terrorism -- and Turkey's growing unhappiness about being used as a base for operations against Iraq would give Washington an incentive to help out. While White House spokesman Joe Lockhart on Tuesday welcomed news of the Kurd rebel's capture, he denied the U.S. had any "direct involvement in Ocalan's handover to Turkey."

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