Armed attackers target Kurdish football player Deniz Naki in Germany

Unknown assailants targeted Deniz Naki, a German footballer of Kurdish origins, who is known for his critics against Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and shot on his car near the city of Düren in Germany.

Pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency has reported that late on Sunday night, two bullets hit the left side of Deniz Naki’s car while he was driving in A4 highway near Düren. Naki survived the attack without injuries. According to Naki, shots were fired from a moving car.

German Press Agency (DPA) has also reported that the prosecutor’s office in Aachen is aware of the incident and opened an investigation about the attack. “I just saw a black station wagon next to me. One shot was just above the left rear tire, another between two windows of the car on the left side,” Deniz Naki said.

In an interview with Bento magazine, Naki said, “I think this is a political thing. I am a target in Turkey because I am pro-Kurdish. The attack shows me that I am not safe anywhere. I suspect that the shooter was either an agent of the Turkish government or a right-wing Turk.”

German prosecutors are investigating the attack targeting Naki, the prosecutors said on Monday. Katja Schlenkermann-Pitts, a senior prosecutor in Aachen, said authorities were investigating the incident as an attempted homicide, but said her office could not confirm Naki’s concerns. She said prosecutors were looking “in all directions.”

The Interior Ministry had no information on the case, spokesman Johannes Dimroth told a regular government news conference. He said he had no doubt that Naki’s statements would be addressed by prosecutors as part of the investigation.

The incident occurred around 11 p.m. by local time on the A4 highway near the town of Dueren, where Naki grew up, as he was returning home after visiting a friend.

“I could have died,” Naki told the newspaper. “It was so close. I was scared to death.” He said the shots were fired from a black station wagon that was diagonally behind him, and two bullets struck his car. Naki, who said he frequently received menacing messages on social media, said he had not received any specific threats in recent weeks.

Lawyer Soran Haldi Mızrak, who is representing Deniz Naki, has said that the police and prosecutor’s office have focused on racist Turkish elements. Mızrak noted that they have been meeting with Naki frequently since last night and they follow the investigation launched by police in Germany.

Amedspor Chair Nurullah Edemen said that they wait for the investigation to be completed. Underlining that Naki was attacked by racists fans inside and outside the stadium in the past, Edemen said, “If this was carried out by racists, it will give rise to some serious problems”.

Naki, a former national youth football player for Germany, now plays for Turkey’s third-tier Amedspor in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. The 28-year-old midfielder is considered a critic of the Turkish government.

Naki was detained in mid-summer due to the social media posts authorities find insulting President Erdoğan. Earlier, Naki was given suspended prison sentence of 18 months and 22 days due to his social media posts that the judge in charge claimed to be a part of terrorist propaganda.

Naki said his postings aimed peace building in Turkey’s Kurdish regions in the east of the country, adding that he dedicated a 2016 win against rival Bursaspor to the people who lost their lives or got wounded during Turkish military operations in Diyarbakır’s Sur district.

“My statement following the match was the reason for them to file a complaint against me,” he told Turkish media. Turkish government has intensified pressure against the Kurdish minority since the summer of 2015. While Kurdish majority cities were turned upside down with consecutive military attacks, hundreds of Kurdish politicians were jailed over terror charges.

Cansu Özdemir, a German deputy from the Left Party, reacted to the shooting and said, “The assassination attempt on Deniz Naki makes it clear that Turkish oppositionists in Germany are not safe. I worry that Erdoğan’s hit squads will continue until every person that bothers them is silent,” and adding that “This serious threat level cannot continue to be understated.”

In recent months, there have been repeated reports of alleged death lists on which contained names of opponents of the Turkish government. Recently, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Garo Paylan reported on such a list.

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