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Abdullah Çatlı (1956 – 3 November 1996) was a convicted Turkish drug trafficker,[1][2] and contract killer for the Counter-Guerrilla.[3][4] He led the youth branch of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) during the 1970s.[5] His death in the Susurluk car crash, while travelling in a car with state officials revealed the depth of the state's complicity in organized crime, in what became known as the Susurluk scandal. He was a hit man for the state, ordered to kill suspected members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the ASALA.


Growing up in Nevşehir, a small province in Central Anatolia, Çatlı was familiar with the views of the far right MHP, and Turkish ultra-nationalists, which were strong in this area.

1978 - 1984

Çatlı was responsible, along with Haluk Kırcı and several other MHP members, for the 9 October 1978 Bahçelievler Massacre in which seven university students, members of the Workers Party of Turkey (TIP), were murdered.[1] [6] He is also said to have helped Mehmet Ali Ağca murder the left-wing newspaper editor Abdi İpekçi on 1 January 1979, in Istanbul,[7] and helped Ağca escape from an Istanbul military prison, in 1979.[1] According to investigative journalist Lucy Komisar, Abdullah Çatlı "reportedly helped organize Agca's escape from an Istanbul military prison, and some have suggested Catli was even involved in the 1981 Pope's assassination attempt".[7] In 1998 the magazine Monde diplomatique alleged that Abdullah Çatlı had organized the assassination attempt "in exchange for the sum of 3 million German mark" for the Grey Wolves.[2] In 1985 in Rome, Catli declared to a judge "that he had been contacted by the BND, the German intelligence agency, promised him a nice sum of money if he implicated the Russian and Bulgarian services in the assassination attempt against the Pope".[5]

Çatlı was seen in the company of Stefano Delle Chiaie, an Italian neofascist who worked for Gladio, a secret NATO stay-behind paramilitary organization, while "touring Latin America, and on a visit to Miami in September 1982". He then went to France, where, under the alias of Hasan Kurtoglu, he planned a series of attacks on Armenian interests and on the ASALA, including the blowing up of the Armenian monument at Alfortville on 3 May 1984 and the attempted murder of activist Ara Toranian.[2][8]

According to founding Counter-Guerrilla Alparslan Türkeş, the founder of the Grey Wolves, "Çatlı has co-operated in the frame of a secret service working for the well-being of the state".[9]

1984 - 1996

Turkish intelligence service (MIT) paid Çatli in heroin, and he was eventually arrested in Paris on 24 October 1984 for drug trafficking. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and in 1988 he was handed over to Switzerland, where he was also wanted on charges of drug dealing. However, he escaped in March 1990 with the assistance of mysterious accomplices. He returned to Turkey, and was then recruited by the police for "special missions" while he was officially being sought by the Turkish authorities for murder.

Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çiller declared on 4 October 1993: "We know the list of businessmen and artists subjected to racketeering by the PKK and we shall be bringing their members to account." Beginning on 14 January 1994, almost a hundred people were kidnapped by commandos wearing uniforms and travelling in police vehicles and then killed somewhere along the road from Ankara to Istanbul. Çatli demanded money from people who were on "Çiller’s list", promising to get their names removed. One of his victims, Behçet Cantürk, was to pay ten million dollars, to which Casino King Omer Luftu Topal added a further seventeen million. However, after receiving the money, he then went on to have them kidnapped and killed, and sometimes tortured beforehand.[2] According to Mehmet Eymür, a team led by Çatlı was responsible for the 1995 deaths of Iranian spies Lazım Esmaeili and Askar Simitko.[10] Çatlı's fingerprint was also allegedly found on the drum of one of the machine guns used to assassinate casino king Ömer Lütfü Topal.[11] In 1996 Çatlı twice kidnapped Mehmet Ali Yaprak.


Çatlı died in a car accident on 3 November 1996 in Susurluk, a town in the province of Balıkesir. With him in the car were Hüseyin Kocadağ (a famous police officer), Sedat Bucak (a Member of Parliament of the True Path Party (DYP) for Şanlıurfa province), and Gonca Us (Abdullah Çatlı's girlfriend). Sedat Bucak, a Kurdish village guards leader, was the sole person to survive the crash. His militia, funded by the Turkish state, was active against the PKK. The Susurluk scandal exposed the "deep state"; the underbelly of the government that some had dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theory.

At the time of his death, Çatlı was a convicted fugitive, who had been wanted for drug trafficking and murder. The mafia chiefs of the Grey Wolves, and its infamous hit man Mehmet Ali Ağca, paid tribute at his funeral by presenting wreaths, as is traditional in Turkey. Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu of the far right Great Union Party was also present.[12]


His daughter Gökçen wrote a biography, referring to diaries stretching back ten years, in order to correct alleged inaccuracies that were circulated after his death.[13] Gökçen said "My father had his own understanding of justice. He was trying to achieve this justice with his group on behalf of his nation."[14]

  • Çatlı, Gökçen (2000). Babam Çatlı. Timaş. ISBN 975-362-573-1. 

Another book was written by Soner Yalçın and Doğan Yurdakul, titled Reis: Gladio'nun Türk Tetikçisi ("The Chief: Gladio's Turkish Hitman").

Abdullah Çatlı in fiction

  • Bruce Sterling's 2000 novel Zeitgeist includes a major character ("Mehmet Ozbey") loosely based on Çatlı.

Personal life

Çatlı's father was Ahmet Çatlıoğlu; the "-oğlu" suffix is a patronymic. Çatlı had a brother, Zeki. Abdullah Çatlı married his neighbor Meral Aydoğan on 10 August 1974.[15][16] On 22 May 1975, they had a daughter named Gökçen, who is currently a doctoral student in politics and international relations.[17] Later he had another daughter, Selcen.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kinzer, Stephen (10 December 1996). "Scandal Links Turkish Aides to Deaths, Drugs and Terror". New York Times. pp. A1, A14. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Nezan, Kendal (5 July 1998). "Turkey's pivotal role in the international drug trade". Le Monde diplomatique. 
  3. Jenkins, Gareth (28 December 2008). "Susurluk and the Legacy of Turkey’s Dirty War". Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 28 December 2008. "...Abdullah Catli, a wanted Mafia hitman and convicted heroin smuggler..." 
  4. Korkmaz, Tamer (27 July 2008). "Kim, kimin nesi oluyor?" (in Turkish). Yeni Şafak. Retrieved 28 December 2008. "Çatlı da NATO-ABD orijinli 'Mister Kontrgerilla'nın 'sağcı' tetikçisiydi."  (English)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Martin A. Lee, Les liaisons dangereuses de la police turque, Le Monde diplomatique, March 1997 (French)
  6. Yalçın, Soner; Yurdakul, Doğan (1997). "The Bahcelievler Massacre" (in Turkish; extract translated into English). Reis: Gladio’nun Türk Tetikçisi. Su Yayinlari. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Lucy Komisar (6 April 1997), The Assassins of a Pope, Albion Monitor.
  8. Dündar, Can (5 December 1996). "Biraz Daha Gayret, Çözülüyor..." (in Turkish). Milliyet. Retrieved 23 December 2008. "Saint-Pierre'in Kurtları kitabıyla tanıdığımız Fransız gazeteci Stoerkel, Abdullah Çatlı'nın 1982 yılında İtalyan Gladio ajanı Chiaie ile birlikte Amerikan koruması altında Miami'ye girdiğini açıklıyordu." 
  9. Yeni Yuzyil, 1996-12-05. Quoted in "Turkish Press Scanner". Turkish Daily News. Hürriyet. 6 December 1996. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  10. Today's Zaman, 8 December 2011, Mehmet Eymür exposes more of web of dirty liaisons
  11. Hurriyet Daily News, 16 December 1996, Turkish Press Scanner
  12. Hakan Aslaneli and Zafer F. Yoruk (6 November 1996). "'Traffic Monster' reveals state-mafia relations". Turkish Daily News. Hürriyet. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  13. Özturk, Neslihan (3 July 1997). "Abdullah Catli's daughter to write book on her father". Turkish Daily News. Archived from the original on 13 November 2008. 
  14. Beki, Mehmet Akif (10 November 1997). "Two portraits of 'The Chief': Which Catli?". Turkish Daily News. Archived from the original on 13 November 2008. 
  15. "Dügün Davetiyesi". Official Web site of Abdullah Çatlı. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  16. "FOTOĞRAF ALBÜMÜ" (in Turkish). Official Web site of Abdullah Çatlı. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  17. "Gökçen Çatlı hakkında (About G. atlı)" (in Turkish). Official Web site of Abdullah Çatlı. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 

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