Police in the United States have detained a man accused of attacking Turkey’s diplomatic headquarters in New York with a crowbar and breaking its windows, law enforcement authorities said.
The arrest on Friday came amid condemnations from US and Turkish officials. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on US authorities earlier this week to find the perpetrator, describing him as a “terrorist”.
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The New York Police Department identified the suspect in an email to Al Jazeera as 29-year-old Recep Akbiyik. He faces multiple charges, including attempted burglary, criminal possession of a weapon, making terroristic threats, criminal mischief and menacing, according to a police spokesperson.
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 the Turkish state-run news outlet Anadolu Agency showed a man dressed in black and sporting a hat bashing the glass façade of the building with a crowbar early on Monday.
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 nearly a week before Turkey’s presidential election run-off between Erdogan and opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Turkish ex-pats in New York voted in the elections at the Turkish House this week. The vote in Turkey will take place on Sunday. Erdogan placed first in the opening round of voting earlier this month but fell short of securing the majority needed for an outright victory.
Politicians show support
In response to the attack, New York Mayor Eric Adams visited the Turkish House on Monday and met 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 & provide necessary protection to ensure the safety of our diplomatic missions. My thoughts are with my colleagues working relentlessly abroad for Turkiye, including this election period,” he wrote in a tweet earlier this week, using the Turkish government’s official spelling of Turkey.
The US Department of State said that its Diplomatic Security Service was working with local law enforcement on the investigation. “We condemn the vandalism,” spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters.
Jeff Flake, the US ambassador to Turkey, denounced the attack as well.
We condemn the vandalism on Monday against the Turkish House in New York City. We’re working with local law enforcement authorities on the investigation 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.
Amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, Turkey helped broker a deal to continue the export of Ukrainian grains, and US officials have regularly emphasised the importance of its alliance with Turkey.