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Cleric to testify after alleging 2,000 Salafist groups in Turkey are arming themselves

Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü is a popular pro-government preacher who goes by the name Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office will hear the testimony of a cleric from a Sunni religious order after he claimed on a live broadcast that 2,000 Salafist organizations in Turkey are currently arming themselves, the Diken news website reported on Tuesday.

On Sept. 9 Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, a popular pro-government preacher who goes by the name of Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca, appeared on a live broadcast hosted by journalist Ahmet Hakan on CNN Türk to answer questions on the current state of religious orders in Turkey.

Responding to a question on whether foreign powers are financing religious orders in the country, Ünlü said: “There are 2,000 [Salafist] associations. They are arming themselves now. This is a civil war in the making.”

On Saturday Merdan Yanardağ, a journalist from the Tele1 network, said on a broadcast he hosted that Ünlü told him he could give the names of 150 of the 2,000 associations he mentioned as arming themselves on CNN Türk to prosecutors in the event they ask him.

Salafism is a modern fundamentalist movement that emerged in 19th century Egypt. The name derives from upholding the traditions of the Salaf, the first three generations of Muslims whom Salafists believe lived an unadulterated form of Islam.

Foreign and domestic critics have previously pointed to Salafi groups operating on Turkish soil. One such group, the Dokumacilar, was linked by authorities to several bombings that targeted pro-Kurdish gatherings in 2015, killing hundreds.  

A report from the European Union’s intelligence body (EUINTCEN) obtained by the Ahval news website states that some components of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) might have been complicit in one of the bomb attacks that targeted a pro-Kurdish gathering in Ankara in October 2015

“The modus operandi of the attack (suicide bombers) points to Da’esh. Given the circumstances (arriving buses with demonstrators not searched, police almost absent at the huge demonstration), there is a reason to believe that in this case, forces within the AKP commissioned the Da’esh operatives,” the report reads.

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