İstanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has confirmed claims that Turkish officials last month thwarted an assassination attempt against him, a day after the Security Directorate General denied the assertion in a written statement.
The claims were made for the first time on Tuesday in a report by opposition news website Oda TV, which suggested that a thwarted attempt to assassinate İmamoğlu on November 23 led to the arrest of multiple gunmen linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The attempted assassination also prompted increased security for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayor on the orders of the governor of İstanbul, Oda TV said in the report.
Releasing a written statement shortly after publication of the report, the Security Directorate General denied the claims, saying there had been no assassination attempt or arrests made linked to any such attempt.
“From time to time, we receive such information or notices against public officials, statesmen, individuals under protection, people and institutions or places that can create a sensation due to their duties,” the statement said, adding that such notices are shared with “the relevant people” and the “necessary measures” are then taken.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who was asked on Tuesday whether such a threat against İmamoğlu was made and thwarted, gave a vague answer to Sözcü daily columnist Uğur Dündar.
“We receive intelligence like this from time to time, but it is not disclosed to the public,” Soylu said, adding that such intelligence is evaluated “meticulously.”
However, İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) Spokesperson Murat Ongun on the same day confirmed the claims on social media on behalf of the mayor, saying they were warned by the Security Directorate General on November 23 of a possible plot targeting İmamoğlu following “intelligence on a terror organization.”
“Within the context of this information, the existing precautions have been maintained and awareness [regarding İmamoğlu’s safety] has increased,” Ongun said, noting that they have not been notified about the capture of any suspect in relation to the threat.
İmamoğlu also spoke to the press on Wednesday, saying the claims including an attempted assassination targeting him were “nothing new,” although the Turkish media found out about it only recently.
“The necessary explanation regarding the issue was given by my Spokesperson Murat Ongun,” the mayor added.
The number of death threats directed at opposition figures in Turkey increased after main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu last week lashed out at Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for “releasing mafia leaders and drug traffickers” while imprisoning mainly pro-Kurdish politicians, whom he referred to as “prisoners of conscience.”
Notorious Turkish mafia boss Alaattin Çakıcı, known for his ties to Devlet Bahçeli, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader and election ally of the AKP government, accused Kılıçdaroğlu of treason for defending imprisoned politicians and threatened him with physical violence in a hand-written letter posted on Twitter.
Pro-government columnist Fuat Uğur also penned an article on Saturday, saying that the CHP leader could be assassinated.