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Islamic charity group defends beating Israeli soldiers in self defense

ISTANBUL (AP) — The head of an Islamic charity group that organized the pro-Palestiniang aid flotilla to Gaza says the beating of some Israeli soldiers during a bloody raid that killed nine activists was in self defense.

Bulent Yildirim, who was deported from Israel along with hundreds of activists, says activists also seized weapons of some Israeli soldiers but threw them into the sea. He says the activists attacked the Israeli commandos with chairs and sticks in self defense.

Yildirim says Thursday "even if had used the guns that would be still a legitimate self defense," accusing Israel of raiding the ships in international waters on Monday.

Yildirim vowed to organize bigger convoys by land and sea if Israel does not end the blockade of Gaza.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ISTANBUL (AP) — An Islamic charity group that organized the aid flotilla to Gaza says its workers and relatives are trying identify nine bodies at an Istanbul morgue.

Turkish planes brought back hundreds of activists early Thursday following a bloody raid by Israeli commandos on a pro-Palestinian flotilla. The activists returned to a hero's welcome with thousands of supporters chanting "God is Great!"

The IHH charity group says they are having difficulties in identifying five of the bodies. Four of them have been officially confirmed to be Turks.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc welcomed them at the airport after Turkey pressured Israel to release the detainees, most of whom are Turkish. Others were from Arab countries, Europe and the United States.