Suspected Istanbul New Year gunman ‘confesses’

Reina club attacker after being caught by Turkish police in Istanbul. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2017
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Suspected Istanbul New Year gunman ‘confesses’

ANKARA: A 34-year-old Uzbek man suspected of slaughtering 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve confessed to the massacre on Tuesday, hours after his capture in a police raid.
Turkish police cornered Abdulgadir Masharipov at an apartment in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul on Sunday during a massive operation.
A man of Iraqi origin and three women from Somalia, Senegal and Egypt were detained with the attacker in the same apartment.
The 33-year-old suspect, of Uzbek origin, killed 39 people celebrating the New Year in Istanbul’s popular Reina nightclub near the Bosphorus.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack as revenge for Turkey’s military involvement in Syria against the terrorist group.
Of the 39 dead, 27 were foreigners, including citizens from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia and Morocco.
The police operation included analyzing some 7,200 hours of surveillance footage by about 2,000 policemen and conducting raids at 152 addresses nationwide. Police are continuing to search for other possible terror cells linked to the attack.
“The terrorist confessed his crime,” Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin told reporters, saying the suspect’s fingerprints matched those of the attacker and confirming he is an Uzbek national. 
“He was trained in Afghanistan and can speak four languages. He’s a well-trained terrorist,” added the governor, saying Masharipov is believed to have first entered Turkey in January 2016.
Over the previous weeks, his wife and 50 other people were also arrested, but she said she was unaware of her husband’s Daesh connections.
Sahin said $197,000 in cash, two guns, SIM cards and two drones were found in the hideout, along with a huge stock of fruit and water.
Sahin said it was obvious the attack was staged on behalf of Daesh, although police are still assessing related intelligence.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the attack was carried out professionally, and an intelligence organization might have been involved.
On Jan. 17, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke about the police operation, saying: “Nobody will get away with any crime in this country. We will call everybody to account under the state of law. Arresting the terrorist is an important manifestation of this security approach.”
Nihat Ali Ozcan, a retired major now serving as a security analyst at Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, told Arab News: “The attacker either could not find the necessary equipment to defend himself against the police, or did not want to blow himself up because of family members, including two children, in the same place.”
Rather than defending himself against the police, Masharipov reportedly tried to hide under a bed in the flat.
“From now on, intelligence will trigger more operations, while more operations will trigger more intelligence,” Ozcan said, adding that the presence of drones in the flat is telling. “He might have used it either for reconnaissance, or tried to arm it for his terror act.”
However, “this case points out to a serious intelligence problem. From now on, we are witnessing a multi-country, multi-lingual and multi-purpose terrorism.”
Ozcan added: “Turkish police should be able to speak and understand about 30 or 40 languages at the same time, and they should be equipped with the capacity to analyze various cultural backgrounds at the micro level for an efficient counterterrorism ability.”

(With input from AFP)


Why the Armenian Genocide won’t be forgotten

Updated 24 April 2019
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Why the Armenian Genocide won’t be forgotten

  • Up to 1.5 million Armenians were wiped out by the Ottoman Empire beginning on April 24, 1915, a reality Turkey continues to deny
  • The day will be commemorated around the world today as a growing number of countries recognize the atrocity

DUBAI: More than 100 years on, Armenians and experts alike remember the brutal atrocities and forced exodus from what is now Turkey, which left up to 1.5 million Armenians dead.

April 24 marks the start, in 1915, of the Armenian Genocide. “Every Armenian is affected by the repeated massacres that occurred in the Ottoman Empire as family members perished,” said Joseph Kechichian, senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.

“My own paternal grandmother was among the victims. Imagine how growing up without a grandmother — and in my orphaned father’s case, a mother — affects you,” he added.

“We never kissed her hand, not even once. She was always missed, and we spoke about her all the time. My late father had teary eyes each and every time he thought of his mother.”

Every Armenian family has similar stories, said Kechichian. “We pray for the souls of those lost, and we beseech the Almighty to grant them eternal rest,” he added.

“We also ask the Lord to forgive those who committed the atrocities and enlighten their successors so they too can find peace,” he said. “Denial is ugly and unbecoming, and it hurts survivors and their offspring, no matter the elapsed time.”

Donald Miller, professor of religion and sociology at the University of Southern California, said: “The ongoing denial of the genocide by the government of Turkey pours salt into the wound of the moral conscience of Armenians all over the world. On April 24, the genocide will be commemorated all over the world.”

On that day, the Ottoman government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals.

Ordinary Armenians were then turned away from their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.

Ottoman killing squads massacred Armenians, with only 388,000 left in the empire by 1922 when the genocide ended, from 2 million in 1914.

Many were deported to Syria and the Iraqi city of Mosul. Today they are scattered across the world, with large diasporas in Russia, the US, France, Argentina and Lebanon.

To date, only 28 countries have officially recognized the tragedy as a genocide. The only Arab country that has done so is Lebanon, although a bill is pending in Egypt’s Parliament to do so as well, while Muslim clerics in Iraq have called on Turkey to end the denial.

“The other significant consequence of the Armenian Genocide is the denial that successive Turkish governments have practiced, even though the last Ottoman rulers acknowledged it and actually tried a number of officials who were found guilty,” Kechichian said.

“Denial translates into a second genocide, albeit a psychological one. Eventually, righteous Turks — and there are a lot of them — will own up to this dark chapter of their history and come to terms with it, but it seems we’re not there yet.”

Opinion

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For some 3,000 years, Armenians had made their home in the Caucasus, with Christianity their official religion. During the 15th century it became a part of the Ottoman Empire, whose rulers were Muslim.

Soon enough, Armenians were viewed as “infidels,” having to pay higher taxes than Muslims and with very few political and legal rights.

Despite this the Armenian population thrived, causing great resentment among their Turkish neighbors.

And shortly after World War I began, atrocities against Armenians started taking place, with crucifixions, drownings, live burnings and mass murders.

Some children were kidnapped, converted to Islam and given to Turkish families. Meanwhile, women were raped and forced to join Turkish “harems” or work as slaves, and Armenian properties were seized.

“The Armenian Genocide was the first major calamity that hit an entire nation in the 20th century,” Kechichian said.

“Although the term genocide wasn’t in use at the time — it was coined by Raphael Lemkin in his 1944 book ‘Axis Rule in Occupied Europe’ — the Polish attorney applied it to the Armenian case.”  

Turkey still denies the persecution of Armenians after World War I. But Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international scholar in Saudi Arabia, said: “We know that the genocide happened. The Ottoman Empire in that era conducted many massacres against many people, including Arabs and Armenians.”

He compared the situation to that of Turkey today, with its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “We still see that he wants to have his empire again,” Al-Shehri said. “He thinks he’s the sultan of that empire.”

Al-Shehri also drew a parallel with Iran and the Persian Empire. “They (Iran) want to control the whole region, so they’re living with that era in their mind and (trying) to apply it on the ground,” he said.

“This is the difference between us and them — they don’t want to leave countries alone, and this is what we’re facing with Iran.”

Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior advisor at Gulf State Analytics, said the Armenian Genocide remains a “contentious” issue because of “the acrimonious debate over how to define genocide, particularly from the Turkish point of view. Ankara doesn’t recognize genocide because of many reasons, all of them extremely poor.”