* Returning activists dazed and shaken
* Describe scenes of chaos aboard aid ship
By Alexandra Hudson
ISTANBUL, June 3 Hundreds of activists from a
Turkish-led aid flotilla landed at Istanbul early on Thursday,
dazed and shaken after their ordeal but given a hero's welcome
by thousands of cheering supporters waiting at the airport.
Three Turkish planes that bore the activists from Tel Aviv
to Turkey also carried the simple wooden coffins of the nine
killed when Israeli commandos stormed the ships trying to take
aid to Gaza.
"We've been scared, frightened, kidnapped and attacked with
battleships while we were taking aid to needy people in Gaza,"
said Mustafa Ahmet, a British citizen of Turkish origin.
The Israeli military said the deaths occurred when commandos
stormed the Mavi Marmara, the cruise ship on which most of the
violence occurred, from helicopters and dinghies.
As activists descended from the planes at Istanbul's Ataturk
airport they lifted their arms in defiance, but afterwards some
were overcome with emotion and wept.
The majority of the 466 people aboard the planes were
Turkish with some British, Norwegian, Dutch and Spanish citizens
Several activists suggested the death toll was higher than
nine, and accused the Israeli army of hiding bodies and
destroying forensic evidence.
"The soldiers shot a doctor who wanted to surrender and they
threw dead bodies into the sea. We still don't know what
happened to them," said Bulent Yildirim, chairman of the IHH,
the Turkish Islamic charity which organised the convoy.
He said Israeli commandos had forced activists to kneel with
their hands behind their backs after they stormed the flotilla,
and helicopters circling overhead poured cold sea water onto
Kevin Ovenden of Britain said a man who had pointed a camera
at the soldiers was shot directly through the forehead with live
ammunition, with the exit wound blowing away the back of his
Israel says its commandos were attacked as they came aboard
the Mavi Marmara, forcing them to shoot in self-defence after
activists clubbed and stabbed them and snatched their weapons.
Many of those waiting at Istanbul's Ataturk airport carried
Palestinian flags and bore slogans such as "murderer Israel",
while one group of protesters tore up an Israeli flag. Hours
earlier thousands had demonstrated in a central Istanbul square.
The injured were flown separately to a military airport in
Ankara aboard two air ambulances.
The killings of Turks onboard the flotilla has brought the
already strained relationship between the Jewish state and
Turkey's Islamist-leaning government close to breaking point.
Turkey recalled its ambassador and Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan has called for Israel's act to be "punished".
(Editing by Michael Roddy)