By Andrew Wilks, The Associated Press on February 1, 2024.
ISTANBUL (AP) – Two gunmen took seven hostages at a factory owned by U.S. company Procter & Gamble in northwest Turkey on Thursday, according to media reports, apparently in protest of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
Turkish media published an image of one of the purported suspects inside the factory, a man wearing what appeared to be a rudimentary explosives belt and holding a handgun.
Hours later, a P&G spokesperson said the situation at its plant in Gebze in the province of Kocaeli had been resolved and all personnel were safe and the assailant apprehended by law enforcement. The statement from the spokesperson referred to one assailant.
“The fact that no one was harmed is our greatest relief. We are grateful to the authorities and first responders who managed the situation with courage and professionalism,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier, private news agency DHA said the suspects entered the main building of the facility at around 3 p.m. local time (1200 GMT) and took seven members of the staff hostage.
It claimed the suspects’ actions were to highlight the loss of life in the Palestinian enclave. Some 27,000 have been killed in Israel’s military operation since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry.
Ismet Zihni said his wife Suheyla was among the hostages. Speaking from near the factory, he told DHA that he had called her. “She answered “˜We’ve been taken hostage, we’re fine’ and she hung up,” he said.
Police sealed off surrounding roads at the factory and were said to be trying to negotiate with the hostage-takers.
P&G’s head office in Cincinnati confirmed the incident. A spokesperson said: “The safety of P&G people and our partners is our top priority. Earlier today, we evacuated our Gebze facility and are working with local authorities to resolve an urgent security situation.”
P&G Turkey employs 700 people at three sites in Istanbul and Kocaeli, according to the company’s website. It produces cleaning and hygiene brands such as Ariel washing powder and Oral B toothpaste.
Public feeling against Israel and its main ally the U.S. has risen in Turkey since the conflict began, with regular protests in support of the Palestinian people in major cities and calls for an immediate cease-fire.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been particularly outspoken, referring to Israeli “war crimes” and comparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a warning in November about demonstrations “critical of U.S. foreign policy” and calls for boycotts of U.S. businesses. The advice followed protests and attacks on outlets such as McDonald’s and Starbucks over the conflict in Gaza.
The photograph of the suspect carried in the Turkish media shows him with a black-and-white Arabic headscarf covering his face. He is standing next to a graffitied wall showing the Turkish and Palestinian flags with the slogan “The gates will open. Either musalla or death for Gaza.” A musalla is an open prayer area for Muslims, usually used for funeral rites.
Associated Press writer Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.