It has been almost a year since a mysterious excavation began in Tarsus in the southern province of Mersin. Since authorities decline to comment on the matter, many conspiracy theorists have attempted to fill in the blanks. The presence of an elite police unit at the tightly-guarded site has fueled even more rumors.
Recently, Kubilay Gülbek, a senior correspondent for A Haber, said an underground city was discovered under a small house, where excavation began in November 2016. Gülbek said that a Roman-era underground city was discovered under the house, possibly dating back to 300 B.C. or earlier. In a televised interview, he said the house was home to "the only gateway to the hidden city."
The excavation followed the killing of a police officer who reportedly went undercover in a gang of illegal treasure hunters. Gülbek said treasure hunters came into possession of a map of the house in 2012 and managed to excavate some 300 meters (980 feet) deep. They discovered a few artifacts before their excavation came to a halt with a police operation. Gülbek said an informant in the gang told police that he saw a room full of gold coins under the house.
Aytuğ Atıcı, a lawmaker from the Republican People's Party (CHP), has tried to enter the premises five times but was denied access. Atıcı said the Vatican helped Turkish authorities find "St. Paul's missing bible" in the excavated area. However, the Vatican Embassy in Turkey denied the claim.
The lawmaker said he was not allowed to enter the scene but was able to talk to a security officer who claimed an "international connection."
"This is connected to the Vatican. What we are doing here is an international case," the officer said, according to Atıcı.
Sibel Erdal, the widowed wife of police officer Metin Erdal, said her husband was killed in 2012 during an undercover assignment against illegal treasure hunters.
Erdal claimed that the investigation's file was closed because a number of police officers were involved in the treasure hunting. She wrote a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanding that the case be relaunched, claiming that the file was closed by security officials linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), suspected of being behind the July 2016 coup attempt.
The Prime Ministry responded earlier to a parliamentary question presented by CHP Deputy Atıcı, saying the excavation site in Tarsus was an archaeologically protected site, and the dig was launched after permission was given by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums.
Tarsus is a Turkish city 27 kilometers (17 miles) east of Mersin, best known as the birthplace of Paul the Apostle, commonly known as Saint Paul. It has a history of settlements dating back to the Neolithic period. The city was under Achaemenid and Seleucid rule before being annexed to the Roman province of Cilicia.
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