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6 suspects arrested in connection to murder of former Grey Wolves leader

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Six of 17 suspects who were detained in connection to the murder of the former president of the Grey Wolves, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) youth wing, have been arrested pending trial, local media reported on Wednesday.

Sinan Ateş, an academic and the former president of the Grey Wolves, was fatally shot in the capital city of Ankara last week. Ateş, who was leaving an apartment in Kızılırmak with a friend when they were attacked by two men on motorcycles, was seriously injured by a bullet to the head and pronounced dead shortly after being taken to a hospital.

According to Turkish media reports, 17 suspects have been detained so far as part of an investigation launched into the incident by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Six suspects have been arrested pending trial.

Among the arrestees are Vedat Balkaya, who was driving the motorcycle during the attack, and the MHP’s provincial board member in İstanbul Ufuk Köktürk.

Eray Özyağcı, who fired the gun, and Doğukan Çep, who was determined to have links to both Balkaya and Özyağcı, are still at large.

Local media reports said it was probable that the two fugitives fled to Syria since they had previously gone to the Turkmen Mountains in Latakia to fight against the Syrian army and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Wednesday released a video on Twitter vowing not to leave Turkey to “mafia and gangs” and to secure “justice” for Ateş’s family.

The CHP leader added that it was “vulgar” to label a nationalist like Ateş as a member of “FETÖ,” which is a derogatory term used by the Turkish government to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.

His reaction came after notorious gang leader Kürşat Yılmaz, who is known to have close links to Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the MHP, on Wednesday released a written statement on Twitter.

“The murderer of a nationalist cannot be a nationalist,” Yılmaz said, implying, without mentioning Ateş’s name, that he was actually an “agent of FETÖ” that infiltrated government institutions, even though he was once the chairman of the Grey Wolves.

Kılıçdaroğlu earlier this week also accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his far-right ally Bahçeli of ignoring Ateş’s murder in line with their political calculations.

Ateş, who served as the president of the Grey Wolves between 2019 and 2020, was directly dismissed by Bahçeli and has been the target of the group’s members on social media. He also drew a reaction from MHP members recently for taking a photo with figures from the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party.

In 2020 France officially banned the Grey Wolves after a center dedicated to the memory of those who died in the mass killings of Armenians during World War I was defaced with graffiti, including the name of the Grey Wolves.

Earlier last year, the European Parliament called on the European Union and its member states to examine the possibility of adding the Grey Wolves to the EU terrorist list.

In its 2019-2020 report prepared by Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor, the EP voiced concerns about the group, saying it was expanding to worrying levels not only in Turkey but also in EU countries.

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