Turkish Ambassador to Zambia Sebnem Incesu yesterday warned that Zambia was facing terrorism threat from Fethullah Gülen, the founder of an organisation which Turkey believes is behind the 2016 coup attempt in that country.

Gülen has an empire of affiliated banks, media, construction companies, and schools, especially those providing primary and secondary education in Africa, Central Asia, the Americas, and Europe. He however lives in exile in the United States. Turkey is demanding the extradition of Gülen, but the U.S. has been requesting evidence from the Turkish Government, linking him to terrorist activities.

At a press conference in Zambia, Monday, Ambassador Incesu sympathised with the victims of the market fire that gutted thousands of shops at Lusaka’s COMESA market.

“We were saddened by the news of the fire that burnt the COMESA market. It’s a very saddening event and we know that a lady lost her life. I would like to express my deepest condolences to deceased family. Of course, the market has to be rehabilitated. They’re some shops that cannot be used any more so I hope that everything will be put in order very soon. We hope that such incidence do not repeat in the future,” she said.

And Ambassador Incesu told journalists that Fethullah Gülen was using the guise of ‘charitable education efforts’ and has set up thousands of schools and businesses.

“Last year, we had a similar press meeting at this very Embassy on the failed coup attempt in Turkey. Two years have passed since the failed coup attempt. There has been a thorough investigation and this subject matter is something very important for Turkey. Because this organisation, which [was] behind the coup attempt is actually active all over the world, [and] that includes Zambia. Fethullah Gülen, you know this name. Fethullah Gülen (the Turkish preacher and former imam) is the leader of Fethullah Gülen terrorist organisation; this is also an international crime organisation. This organisation and this man was the mastermind behind what happened in Turkey on July 15, 2016,” Ambassador Incesu told journalists at the Turkish Embassy in Lusaka.

“Fethullah Gülen and his supporters planned and tried to capture the Turkish Republic and did not shy away from using military force against innocent civilians, killing 251 people and wounding thousands. Two years long, investigations and judicial process on the events of July 15, have produced countless crucial evidence. Those evidences are based on the testimonies of the suspected people. However, to judge the deeds of this man and his organisation only with what happened on July 15, would be a mistake because the crimes committed on that night can be considered just as a tip of the iceberg.”

She warned that the terrorist organisation had set up thousands of schools and businesses in many countries including Zambia.

“It was started under the disguise of charitable education effort. This aspect has to be emphasised because that is exactly what this organisation is up to in many countries. Charitable education effort, this is the mask they use. The Fethullah Gülen organisation established itself in around 160 countries, in Zambia as well, with thousands of schools and businesses. We are pleased to note every increasing awareness on [the] part of our partners regarding the security threat posed by this terrorist organisation in these countries. We consider this organisation not only a threat to Turkey, but also all the countries they are active,” Ambassador Incesu warned.

Asked how many schools the Fethullah Gülen organisation had in Zambia, she said the organisation had a primary, secondary and nursery school.

“Actually, they have a primary and secondary school, they have a nursery school and a businessman association. How do we know that these people are related with the Fethullah Gülen organisation? There are lots of intelligence reports, testimonies, so we know that certain people in those schools; I’m not talking about students, but the administration of those schools, headmasters. So, those people administering those structures, we have strong evidence that they have affiliation of the Fethullah Gülen organisation. And let me add this; they don’t have any connection with the Turkish Embassy. We don’t recognise those people. They have no relation at all with the Turkish Embassy,” she replied.

Asked if the Embassy had engaged law enforcement agencies, Ambassador Incesu said the Embassy was in regular contact with the Ministry of Home Affairs, and hoped to yield positive results soon.

“Yes, sure. We are in constant and regular cooperation with the law enforcement agencies. Especially, as the Embassy, we have to coordinate all our actions through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And we hope to yield positive results soon and that we can share with you. And law enforcement bodies, that is actually the Ministry of Home Affairs,” she responded.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Incesu said President Lungu’s trip to Turkey last week was very valuable and important.

“Last week, His Excellency the President of Zambia was in Turkey in order to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the President of Turkey. We were very grateful and we were honoured to host his Excellency in Turkey. Prior to his visit, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Malanji was in Turkey and he held bilateral talks with our Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey. The bilateral meeting was very fruitful between the two ministers,” said Ambassador Incesu.