Procter & Gamble staff held hostage in Turkish factory freed in police raid

Turkish police have released seven workers taken hostage by a pro-Palestinian gunman at a plant near Istanbul owned by US consumer goods company Procter & Gamble in protest at the war in Gaza.

Relatives of hostages wait as Turkish police secure the Procter & Gamble plant on 1 February. Photograph: Erdem Şahin/EPA

Local officials said police staged a raid nearly nine hours into the standoff when the lone gunman took a bathroom break.

The man was detained unharmed, the local governor, Seddar Yavuz, told reporters.

“The man’s aim was to stop Israel’s massacre in Gaza and to open the Rafa gate in Egypt [for the delivery of humanitarian aid for trapped civilians],” Yavuz said.

“When he went out for a bathroom break, our security forces carried out an operation without harming the hostages.”

Turkish media earlier 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.

The private news agency DHA said the men entered the main building of the facility in Gebze, in the province of Kocaeli, at about 3pm local time on Thursday and took seven members of staff hostage.

It said they claimed their actions were to highlight the loss of life in the Palestinian territory. About 27,000 people have been killed in Gaza in Israel’s military operation since 7 October, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry.

Distressed relatives of the hostages who had gathered at the cordoned-off facility broke into applause when informed by local officials about their loved ones’ release.

“We are very happy after the tense long hours of waiting,” said Fatma Dursun, whose nephew was taken hostage.

“Thank God they are all safe and sound,” she told AFP.

The photograph of one of the suspects carried in the Turkish media showed him with a black-and-white Arabic headscarf covering his face.

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He is seen 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.

DHA also published a photo of some of the hostages celebrating a birthday. It reported that the staff had brought a cake into work for one of their colleagues, and the hostage takers allowed them to celebrate.

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 US 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 ceasefire.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been particularly outspoken, referring to Israeli “war crimes” and comparing the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Adolf Hitler.

The US embassy in Ankara issued a warning in November about demonstrations “critical of US foreign policy” and calls for boycotts of US businesses. The advice followed protests and attacks on outlets such as McDonald’s and Starbucks over the Gaza conflict.


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