Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says recent mass shooting of Muslims in New Zealand is part of a wider attack on Turkey, calling on Wellington to launch a serious investigation into the massacre and threatening to send back “in caskets” all those who try to take the battle to Istanbul.
On Friday, a gunman killed 50 people and wounded 50 others at two mosques in Christchurch, a city located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
The mass shooting is regarded as the deadliest ever attack in New Zealand.
The 28-year-old assailant, who is an Australian national identified as Brenton Tarrant, wrote a detailed manifesto, titled “The Great Replacement,” in which he described the Turkish president as a “warlord” who is leading a country that is among “the oldest enemies of our people.”
“We are coming for Constantinople and we will destroy every mosque and every minaret in the city. The Hagia Sophia will be liberated from the minarets, and Constantinople will be rightfully Christian-owned once more,” his manifesto said.
He further issued threats against Turkey and Erdogan himself, calling for the drive of Turks from Turkey’s northwestern European region, where Istanbul is located, a Muslim-majority city and Turkey’s largest urban center.
On Monday, Erdogan addressed a rally in the northwestern province of Canakkale commemorating the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, when Ottoman soldiers defeated British-led forces including Australian and New Zealand troops trying to seize the peninsula, a gateway to Istanbul.
“We have been here for 1,000 years and will be here until the apocalypse, God willing,” he said.
“You will not turn Istanbul into Constantinople,” Erdogan added, referring to the city’s name under its Christian Byzantine rulers before it was conquered by Muslim Ottomans in 1453. “Your grandparents came here… and they returned in caskets,” Erdogan said, adding, “Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers.”
The Turkish president also called on the New Zealand government to launch a thorough investigation into the tragic event and to take the issue seriously.
“We expect the New Zealand government to take this issue seriously. They should not take it lightly like Western countries do. I have shared this issue with New Zealand’s Governor-General Patsy Reddy. I have told her that we, as Turkey, which has suffered a lot from terrorist acts and have many fallen martyrs, could hold joint works with them,” Erdogan said.
Citing Turkey’s intelligence, Erdogan also said that the mass murderer had visited Turkey twice in 2016.
Additionally on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is in Christchurch to visit Turkish citizens wounded in the shooting, said Muslims around the world were worried about “Islamophobia” and “racism.”