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Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tors will probe as­sas­si­na­tion of am­bas­sador in a move agreed by Putin, Er­do­gan

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGEN­CIES in Ankara

Turk­ish author­i­ties were on Tues­day hold­ing six peo­ple over the as­sas­si­na­tion of the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Ankara by an off-duty po­lice­man, as Rus­sia ur­gently sought an­swers over the mur­der.

With the Turk­ish cap­i­tal al­ready on high alert af­ter a string of at­tacks this year, an in­di­vid­ual also fired out­side the US em­bassy in Ankara overnight in a sep­a­rate in­ci­dent.

Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin de­clared “we have to know who di­rected the hand of the killer” and the Krem­lin said a Rus­sian in­ves­tiga­tive team were fly­ing to Turkey to probe the mur­der in a move agreed by Putin and Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

The corpse of Am­bas­sador An­drei Karlov was in an Ankara morgue and would be flown back to Moscow, Turk­ish me­dia re­ports said.

Putin called the killing a “provo­ca­tion” aimed at sab­o­tag­ing warm­ing re­la­tions be­tween Moscow and Ankara and ef­forts to re­solve the con­flict in Syria.

“There can be only one an­swer to this — step­ping up the fight against terrorism, and the ban­dits will feel this,” the pres­i­dent said.

An un­prece­dented three­way meet­ing be­tween the for­eign min­is­ters of Turkey, Rus­sia and Iran in Moscow over the Syria cri­sis was mean­while set to go ahead de­spite the killing.

Karlov was shot four times in the back by Turk­ish po­lice­man Mev­lut Mert Alt­in­tas, 22, as he opened an ex­hi­bi­tion of Rus­sian pho­tog­ra­phy in Ankara.

Dra­matic images showed Karlov stum­ble and then crash to the ground on his back as the at­tacker bran­dished his gun at ter­ri­fied on­look­ers who cow­ered be­hind cock­tail ta­bles.

The gun­man shouted “Al­lahu ak­bar (God is great­est)” and then said all those re­spon­si­ble for what has hap­pened in Syria and Aleppo would be held ac­count­able.

‘Car­ry­ing po­lice ID’

Alt­in­tas had set off the metal de­tec­tor se­cu­rity check when he en­tered the ex­hi­bi­tion in cen­tral Ankara as he was car­ry­ing a gun, the pro­gov­ern­ment Sabah daily said.

But af­ter show­ing his po­lice ID, he was waved through and al­lowed to pro­ceed.

The Hur­riyet daily added that Alt­in­tas, who had worked for Ankara’s anti-riot po­lice for the last two and a half years, had stayed at a nearby ho­tel to pre­pare for the at­tack.

It said Alt­in­tas, who was off duty at the time, had put on a suit and tie and shaved at the ho­tel be­fore head­ing to the ex­hi­bi­tion cen­ter.

He was later killed by po­lice af­ter a shootout that lasted for about 15 min­utes.

Alt­in­tas was born in the town of Soke in Ay­din prov­ince in western Turkey and at­tended a spe­cial school for train­ing fu­ture po­lice­men.

Six peo­ple have been de­tained over the at­tack, in­clud­ing the sis­ter, mother, fa­ther and un­cle of Alt­in­tas, Turk­ish me­dia re­ported.

The mayor of Ankara, Melih Gokcek, spec­u­lated on his of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count that the at­tacker may be linked to the group of Fethul­lah Gulen, blamed for the July 15 coup aimed at top­pling Er­do­gan.

The main­stream Hur­riyet said that author­i­ties were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the as­sas­sin’s pos­si­ble links to Gulen.

Gulen, who de­nies hav­ing any link to the failed coup bid, is­sued a state­ment con­demn­ing “in the strong­est terms this heinous act of ter­ror”.

MAXIM SHEMETOV / REUTERS

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov (right) and his Turk­ish coun­ter­part Mev­lut Cavu­soglu lay flow­ers in mem­ory of mur­dered Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Turkey An­drei Karlov in Moscow on Tues­day.

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