By FAZLI MERT / ISTANBUL
Sources within the police say that the prevalence of unsolved murders and shootings has increased ever since thousands of police officers were reassigned or dismissed from their duties after a major corruption and bribery investigation that implicated some high-ranking state officials and pro-government businessmen on Dec. 17 of 2013.
The same sources also claim that the security vacuum that was created after the reshuffle of police officers following the probe is the main reason behind the fact that İstanbul has been hit by increasing numbers of unsolved murders and deaths. The sources add that experienced police officers were replaced with ineffective and inexperienced officers as part of the witch hunt being conducted by the government against officers allegedly linked with the Gülen movement — also known as the Hizmet movement — inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The government has been conducting a large-scale defamation campaign against the movement by accusing it of being behind the major corruption probe.
Some of the unsolved murders that have taken place in İstanbul in the last 12 months are listed below.
In the latest murder incident, a citizen of Turkmenistan was found killed in his house in the Beyoğlu neighborhood of İstanbul on Saturday night. The man, who was identified as “Aslan” by his neighbors, was found lying in a pool of blood when the police found his body. The police have launched an investigation to find the perpetrators.
In a recent high-profile incident, an outspoken critic of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon was killed by an unknown assailant on a street in İstanbul’s Fatih district on Thursday night. Umarali Kuvatov had been living in exile in Turkey and was the head of the Group 24 opposition movement. Kuvatov was shot once in his head. The unknown attacker, who witnesses said was wearing a balaclava, fled the scene, Turkish media reported on Friday.
The İstanbul Police Department’s anti-terrorism unit and homicide unit have been jointly handling the investigation into the killing of 47-year-old Kuvatov, who had been eating dinner at a house in the area before the killing. Kuvatov was already dead when medics arrived at the scene, and police then searched the area for evidence.
Kuvatov’s “Gruppa 24” movement was declared an “extremist organization” and banned by Tajikistan’s Supreme Court last October. Tajik law enforcement authorities wanted him for a number of crimes, including extremism, corruption and hostage-taking, but Turkey had declined to extradite him. This murder was reminiscent of the recent murder of two Chechens and an Uzbek citizen in İstanbul.
Abdullah Buhari (38), known as “the Uzbek imam,” was killed on Dec. 11, 2014 in front of the building of the İhsan Scientific Services and Fraternal Association in İstanbul’s Zeytinburnu district where he was giving religious classes. The perpetrators have not still been found, despite three months having passed.
Kaim Saduev, who had fought against Russia in the Chechen region, died in suspicious circumstances on Feb. 28, 2014 when he became sick after eating food sent by his relatives. According to media reports, the relatives sent a parcel of food to Saduev, who was living with his family in İstanbul’s Başakşehir district. Family members became sick on Feb. 28 and Kaim Saduev died in an ambulance on the way to hospital that evening. Saduev’s wife and child, who were also poisoned, survived.
In yet another incident, Vedat Şahin, the brother of suspected gang leader Sedat Şahin, his friend Ferdi Topal and Şahin’s bodyguard Evren Aydın were shot by unidentified individuals while walking in İstanbul’s affluent Nişantaşı neighborhood on Dec. 24, 2014. The gunmen fired automatic rifles, according to witnesses.
In another shooting incident in the city, Ali Ekber Akgün, a real-estate company owner, was shot multiple times by two unidentified assailants while he was waiting at a red light in his car in İstanbul’s Sarıyer district, again on Dec. 24, 2014. According to witness reports, two people got out of the car behind Akgün and fired bullets through the windshield. After shooting Akgün, the two men fled the scene in their vehicle. Akgün was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Former Motherland Party (ANAP, now ANAVATAN) deputy Adnan Yıldız was attacked by two armed men in İstanbul’s Bakırköy district on the morning of April 15 in a shooting incident in which his wife and daughter as well as one of the attackers were killed, while Yıldız, his son and the other assailant were injured and taken to hospital. Yıldız and his family had just entered their car, which was parked outside their home, at 9 a.m. when two men on a motorbike with no license plate started shooting at them. Yıldız’s relatives, who were also present at the scene, fired shots back at the attackers, killing one of them. No identity documents were found on the assailants.
More than 400 police officers have been detained nationwide since July 22 of last year. These officers had carried out major operations in the Dec. 17, Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases as well as operations against the Iran-backed Tawhid-Salam group (also known as Tevhid-i Selam or the Jerusalem Army) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Many of them were later released by the courts because there was no evidence they had participated in criminal activity.