ANKARA // Turkey has ruled out any suspension of its football league after a gun attack on the coach carrying one of the country’s top teams Fenerbahce.
“I don’t think this is a situation that requires a suspension or cancellation [of the league]”, interior minister Sebahattin Ozturk said on Sunday in the capital Ankara.
He spoke after the Istanbul club called for the championship to be halted after a bus carrying its players home from a match on the Black Sea coast was hit by gunfire.
“We consider that as long as this attack is not solved in a way that satisfies Fenerbahce and public opinion, a suspension of the championship is inevitable,” the Istanbul club had said.
“Blood ran and football was silenced. Finding and punishing the culprits is of vital importance for Fenerbahce.”
The bus came under gunfire on Saturday night as the Turkish Super Lig leaders passed through the north-eastern town of Trabzon following their 5-1 victory over Black Sea side Rizespor in nearby Rize.
No players were hurt, but the driver was wounded in the face, said the club’s vice president, Mahmut Uslu, accusing the still unidentified assailants of having tried to “crash the bus and kill the players”.
“A black mark for Turkish football,” the daily Hurriyet newspaper said.
It was “a cowardly and inhuman” attack, sports minister Cagatay Kilic said.
Pictures of the bus showed a damaged windscreen on the driver’s side.
Trabzon governor Abdil Celil Oz said: “At first we thought stones had been thrown at the bus but police investigators at the scene have concluded it was an armed attack.”
The governor said he received a phone call from president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a supporter of the Istanbul club, asking him about the investigation into the attack.
The Turkish Football Federation condemned the incident “in the strongest possible terms” and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
The attack comes at a moment of high tension in Turkey after a week of political violence ahead of June elections.
On Tuesday, two Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) militants took a prosecutor hostage at an Istanbul courthouse and held him for hours before all three were killed in a shoot-out with the police.
A day later police in Istanbul killed an armed woman linked to the DHKP-C.
* Agence France-Presse