Police arrest suspect in Turkish House attack in New York
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called the attacker who attacked Turkey’s diplomatic building with a crowbar a “terrorist.”
Police in the United States have arrested a man accused of attacking Turkey’s diplomatic headquarters in New York with a crowbar and smashing the windows, law enforcement agencies said.
Friday’s arrest came amid convictions from US and Turkish officials. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this week called on US authorities to find the perpetrator, describing him as a “terrorist”.
The New York Police Department identified the suspect as 29-year-old Recep Akbiyik in an email to Al Jazeera. According to a police spokesman, he faces multiple charges, including attempted burglary, criminal possession of a weapon, making terrorist threats, criminal mischief and endangerment.
Turkish news outlets had previously reported that Akbiyik is a Turkish citizen who left Turkey a year ago. His motives remain unclear.
Footage shared by Turkish state news agency Anadolu Agency showed a man dressed in black and wearing a hat beating the glass facade of the building with a crowbar.
The facility, a skyscraper close to the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, is known as the Turkish House. It houses the Turkish consulate in the city and its mission to the UN.
The attack came almost a week before the presidential elections in Turkey between Erdogan and opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Turkish expats in New York voted this week in Turkish House elections. The vote in Turkey will take place on Sunday. Erdogan finished first in the opening round earlier this month, but failed to secure the majority needed for an outright victory.
Politicians show support
In response to the attack, New York City Mayor Eric Adams visited the Turkish House on Monday and met with Turkish diplomats in the city.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, also called the incident a “heinous attack” on Monday.
“We expect the US to immediately identify the perpetrators and provide the necessary protection to ensure the security of our diplomatic missions. My thoughts are with my colleagues who work relentlessly abroad for Turkiye, including in this election period,” he wrote in a tweet earlier this week, using the Turkish government’s official spelling of Turkey.
The U.S. State Department said diplomatic security was cooperating with local law enforcement on the investigation. “We condemn the vandalism,” spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
Jeff Flake, the US ambassador to Turkey, also denounced the attack.
We condemn the vandalism against the Turkish home in New York City on Monday. We are working with local law enforcement agencies to investigate and to defend the security and safety of these facilities and the diplomats who work there.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) May 22, 2023
The US and Turkey are NATO allies, but in recent years there has been friction between the two countries, including over Washington’s support for Kurdish groups in Syria.
During Russia’s war in Ukraine, Turkey helped broker a deal to continue exporting Ukrainian grains, and US officials have regularly emphasized the importance of its alliance with Turkey.