ISTANBUL — Police have rescued seven hostages held at gunpoint for hours at a factory owned by U.S. company Procter & Gamble in northwest Turkey, local officials said early Friday.
A gunman had sparked the standoff at the P&G facility in Gebze, Kocaeli province, in protest of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Governor Seddar Yavuz was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu news agency.
Police initiated the rescue after 10 hours of negotiation failed. “Our esteemed police members and our heroic security forces made the necessary intervention as soon as we were sure that no harm would come to the hostages,” Yavuz said.
Previous reports said two suspects had taken P&G staff prisoner, but Yavuz said it was a former employee acting alone.
The man had demanded a cease-fire in Gaza and the opening of aid routes into the Palestinian enclave, he added.
“The hostages were rescued safely and the person who committed the action was detained and a large-scale investigation was launched into the incident,” Yavuz’s office said in a statement.
A spokesman for Cincinnati-based P&G said the situation at its Gebze plant had been resolved and all personnel were safe.
“The fact that no one was harmed is our greatest relief. We are grateful to the authorities and first responders who managed the situation with courage and professionalism,” the spokesperson said.
The suspect was also unharmed.
Yavuz said the man had two guns and an unspecified “device.” Turkish media had published an image of the suspect inside the factory wearing what appeared to be a rudimentary explosives belt and holding a handgun.
Private news agency DHA said a man entered the main building of the facility around 3 p.m. local time and took seven staff members hostage.
Police sealed off surrounding roads at the factory and tried to negotiate with the hostage-taker.
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.
“Thank God, we were reunited,” said Fatma Dursun, who told Anadolu her niece had been among the hostages. “May God bless our people, our police and our security forces.”
Public feeling against Israel and its main ally the U.S. 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 cease-fire.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been particularly outspoken, referring to Israeli “war crimes” and comparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a warning in November about demonstrations “critical of U.S. foreign policy” and calls for boycotts of U.S. businesses. The advice followed protests and attacks on outlets such as McDonald’s and Starbucks over the conflict in Gaza.
The photograph of the suspect carried in the Turkish media shows him with a black-and-white Arabic headscarf covering his face. He is 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.
Associated Press writer Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.