October 3, 2018 / 5:42 PM / 2 months ago

Police called to Turkish cleric's U.S. compound for suspected intruder

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Police were called on Wednesday to the Pennsylvania compound of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused by Turkey of instigating a failed 2016 coup, after a guard saw a suspected armed intruder and fired a warning shot, a Gulen spokesman said.

FILE PHOTO: U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File Photo

The security guard fired the shot in the air as the person tried to enter the compound’s gates at around 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) and the person fled, Alp Aslandogan, Gulen’s media adviser, told Reuters. There are no known injuries or arrests, he said.

“Just one shot was fired,” Aslandogan said. “The person disappeared. The incident is over as far as we’re concerned.”

Gulen was inside his residence on the compound at the time.

“His response was that the authorities should be informed and everybody should cooperate fully with the investigation to find out what happened,” Aslandogan said.

President Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government accuse Gulen of orchestrating an attempted coup in July, 2016, in which rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets, bombing parliament. More than 240 people were killed in the violence.

Gulen denies the accusations.

On Wednesday, several Pennsylvania State Police cars were seen around the sprawling gated compound and retreat in Saylorsburg in the Pocono Mountains, according to photographs shared online by local news reporters.

Police, who left the scene a short time later, did not respond to requests for comment. A local television station, WNEP, reported that police were still searching for the suspected intruder.

His compound is patrolled by a team of uniformed private security guards, some of them armed with handguns.

A week earlier, a man appeared at the compound’s front gate speaking in Turkish and acting suspiciously as he tried to get access, according to Austin Davis, a guard at the front gate on Wednesday afternoon. Police were called and took him away.

Erdogan has repeatedly demanded that the United States extradite Gulen to Turkey, straining relations between the two NATO allies. Washington has asked for more compelling evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the attempted coup.

A U.S. evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson, has been held under house arrest in Turkey after authorities charged him with links to Kurdish militants and Gulen supporters, an accusation he has denied. That case has become a key issue in the worsening diplomatic conflict between the two countries, leading to U.S. sanctions.

Reporting by Joe McDonald in Saylorsburg, Jonathan Allen in New York and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell

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