Thugs attack Turkish businesses

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The Independent Online

The Turkish embassy in London last night reported a series of attacks on Turkish businesses in London and Leeds in the wake of the murder of two football fans in Istanbul.

A Turkish kebab takeaway was "destroyed" and an Asian man, accused of being Turkish, beaten up in Leeds, while a restaurant in north London was vandalised and missiles thrown at the Turkish Airlines office in central London, said Orhan Tung, spokesman for the Turkish embassy.

"After getting drunk at a local pub, some people tried to ransack some Turkish businesses in north London," Mr Tung said.

West Yorkshire police issued details of two attacks on takeaway restaurants in Leeds city centre but denied there was any evidence the perpetrators had acted in retaliation.

They played down both incidents, claiming they were the product of nothing more than typical drunken behaviour. Police said they had no record of an Asian man being beaten because his attackers believed he was Turkish.

The embassy's decision to go public will have heightened tensions on a day when Leeds United's chairman, Peter Ridsdale, called for Galatasaray fans to be banned from next Thursday's second leg of their Uefa Cup semi-final. The embassy branded the decision as "unsportsmanlike" while Galatasaray demanded the tie be played at a neutral ground.

Mr Ridsdale said yesterday it would be unwise for Turkish fans to attend the second leg following the murder of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, both of whom were stabbed to death on Wednesday night. Police in Istanbul said that an unemployed former soldier, Ali Umit Demir, had confessed to one of the murders. He was expected to appear in court yesterday to be formally charged.

On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Ridsdale said: "I think in the circumstances of the events of this week, it would be better for everybody if we concentrated on getting the second leg of the tie completed in safety and making sure we don't have any recurrence of the sort of incidents we saw in Turkey last week.

"I think the easiest way of doing that and avoiding the provocation of Turkish fans being in Leeds is to say: 'Look, don't come over at all'."

More than 1,600 Galatasaray fans have already bought tickets for next week's match, prompting the club's sporting director, Mete Razlikli, to comment: "We will be making a request to Uefa for the match to be played at a neutral venue. Under Uefa rules, if the safety of the fans cannot be guaranteed, then the match cannot be played."

Ray Fell, chairman of the 10,000-member Leeds United Supporters Club, said everyone was behind Mr Ridsdale's call for a ban on the Turkish fans. "This is not a normal decision but on this occasion it is one that everyone connected with Leeds United will support 100 per cent," he said.

Galatasaray fans reacted yesterday with anger and fear to Leeds United's call for a ban while a rumour went round the city that Leeds fans intend to ambush Turkish supporters as they arrive in Britain for the match.

"What happened here wasn't the Galatasaray fans' fault," said one street trader who refused to give his name. "Your fans attacked our people. Now the English press is whipping up people in England so they will attack our supporters there. They've got to move the match."

Ayle Basar was selling Galatasaray replica shirts and memorabilia to fans in her shop. "They say the Leeds fans are going to shoot our people as they arrive at the English airport. But my husband is going, he's not afraid."