A member of the terrorist group Daesh who was recently captured in Istanbul has confessed to police that he was instructed to assassinate Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, a prominent cleric who is publicly known as Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca.
Hakkı U., who was detained during a police raid in Istanbul's Kadıköy district along with three other Daesh suspects, said he was ordered by his Daesh superiors to scout the places where Ünlü gives lectures and learn the dates that he assembled people for his sermons. "I received an encrypted message for instructions [regarding Ünlü] a few days before police captured me," he said. Security forces found a large cache of weapons in possession of Hakkı U. and other suspects during searches of their homes and workplaces. The suspects are scheduled to appear before a court in the coming days on charges of being members of a terrorist group.
Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü is known for his staunch opposition to Daesh and other terrorist groups that exploit Islam. His videotaped sermons peppered with humorous anectodes brought him a large group of followers in Turkey. Ünlü was also a target of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), another group that uses religion to brainwash followers, and was briefly jailed for his alleged involvement in sex trafficking a few years ago. He was later released and a subsequent investigation revealed that he was jailed on the basis of forged evidence. Judges and prosecutors accused of conspiring against Ünlü were dismissed from duty for their FETÖ links.
Turkish media outlets reported last year that Ünlü and other prominent clerics were on Daesh's hit list and some were forced to cancel public appearances after security forces warned them of the threats. Ünlü was quoted by Turkish media outlets as saying that he canceled his appearances "in order not to trouble security forces," implying a security threat while warning that "some powers aimed to incite sectarian strife in Turkey."
Daesh views Turkey as an "infidel" state - like almost all Muslim-majority countries it has declared enemies. It has become one of the most active terrorist groups in Turkey over a span of just two years and is blamed for a string of attacks in the country, ranging from suicide bombings to gun attacks. In January, a lone Daesh gunman stormed a popular nightclub in Istanbul where he killed 39 people during New Year's Eve celebrations. The gunman was apprehended a few weeks later. Since the terrorist group's emergence, Turkey has detained over 5,000 suspects and last year launched Operation Euphrates Shield to back Syrian opposition groups fighting Daesh in Syria. The country has deported over 5,000 Daesh suspects and prohibited the entry of over 53,000 terrorist suspects so far. Last week, two foreigners with links to Daesh were captured in Istanbul's Beylikdüzü district. Authorities said the two suspects - whose nationalities were not disclosed - illegally entered Turkey and were planning "sensational" attacks. Police found a shotgun and two pistols and a large cache of munitions in possession of the two suspects.