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Kurdish Player Deniz Naki Survives Murder Attempt in Germany

Shots fired at Deniz Naki, a star Kurdish player for a football club in Turkey’s Diyarbakir city, on a German highway, prompting a swift probe by German prosecutors into the incident.

Naki, who plays for Turkish third-tier side Amedspor in the majority-Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, was unharmed in the incident late Sunday but told German media he had feared for his life.

He said his SUV came under attack from a black van on the A4 motorway near the western town of Dueren, forcing him to the hard shoulder and leaving two bullets lodged in his car.

“I was afraid for my life,” the German-born 28-year-old told Die Welt newspaper.

“One bullet hit my car in the middle of the window, the other landed near a tire. Luckily I wasn’t hit.”

Naki, who represented Germany at the U-19 level and also played for Hamburg-based top German side FC St. Pauli, said he was convinced he was targeted because of his criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I am a walking target in Turkey because of my pro-Kurdish stance,” he told the bento online news portal.

He said he believed the attacker was either a Turkish government agent or a right-wing Turkish radical.

“I always knew that something like this could happen, but I would never have thought it could happen in Germany,” Naki told Die Welt.

Naki, who is in Germany for a visit, was last year convicted of making terror propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and handed a suspended jail term by a Turkish court.

The sentence came after he criticised the government’s operations against PKK militants in Turkey’s southeast on social media.

He denied the charges, saying he only wanted to give a message of peace in the deadly standoff between the army and Kurdish militants.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office in the western German city of Aachen said an investigation into “attempted murder” had been launched but declined to say whether a political motive was suspected.

“We are investigating in all directions,” Katja Schlenkermann-Pitts told AFP.

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