Turkey claims Gulen link to en­voy killing

Krem­lin cau­tions

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

IS­TAN­BUL: Turk­ish author­i­ties were yes­ter­day look­ing into claims the al­leged mas­ter­mind of the failed July coup was in­volved in the as­sas­si­na­tion of Moscow’s ambassador, but the Krem­lin warned against jump­ing to con­clu­sions.

Mon­day’s mur­der of An­drei Karlov stunned Rus­sia and prompted warn­ings of ret­ri­bu­tion from the Krem­lin. But both sides re­sponded by vow­ing to step up co­op­er­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly on the Syria con­flict. Off-duty Turk­ish po­lice­man Mev­lut Mert Alt­in­tas, 22, pumped nine bul­lets into Karlov at an art gallery in Ankara be­fore he him­self was killed by po­lice in a shootout.

The pro-gov­ern­ment press has re­peat­edly said that US-based Is­lamic preacher Fethul­lah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the at­tempted putsch, was be­hind the as­sas­si­na­tion plot. And Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu told US coun­ter­part John Kerry in a phone call on Tues­day that Ankara be­lieved Gulen was in­volved. “Turkey and Rus­sia know that be­hind the at­tack... there is FETO,” his min­istry quoted Cavu­soglu as say­ing, us­ing Turkey’s acro­nym for Gulen’s or­ga­ni­za­tion. Gulen, who has lived in self-im­posed ex­ile in the United States since 1999, has strongly con­demned the as­sas­si­na­tion.

‘Pro­tected Er­do­gan eight times’

Me­dia re­ports said that books on Gulen’s or­ga­ni­za­tion were found at Alt­in­tas’ home, while thor­ough checks are be­ing made of his ac­quain­tances at school and the po­lice acad­emy he at­tended. Thir­teen peo­ple, in­clud­ing close fam­ily mem­bers, have been de­tained over the killing and are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for pos­si­ble links to Gulen.

In a strik­ing de­tail, the Hur­riyet daily said Alt­in­tas, who served with the Ankara anti-riot po­lice, had pro­vided se­cu­rity for Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan eight times since the July 15 at­tempt to over­throw the Turk­ish strong­man.

Hur­riyet writer Ab­dulka­dir Selvi, known for his con­tacts in the rul­ing elite, said that on the day of coup bid Alt­in­tas had called in sick. But it was not clear what he did that night. Turkey and Rus­sia are jointly in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mur­der af­ter an agree­ment be­tween Er­do­gan and Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

A team of 18 Russian in­ves­ti­ga­tors ar­rived in Ankara on Tues­day and spent the day at the crime scene af­ter also wit­ness­ing the au­topsy.

‘Don’t rush to con­clu­sions’

The Krem­lin in­di­cated it was not the time for hurried pro­nounce­ments on re­spon­si­bil­ity. “In this case it is hardly worth hur­ry­ing to any con­clu­sions un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ter­mines-as our pres­i­dent said-who was be­hind the mur­der of our ambassador,” Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told re­porters.

Com­men­ta­tors said that Putin would likely be unim­pressed by any knee-jerk nail­ing of the crime on Gulen, who has be­come a by­word for evil in Turkey af­ter the coup bid. “It can be as­sumed that the Rus­sians will not be sat­is­fied with ex­pla­na­tions that ‘Karlov’s killer was a Gu­lenist’... They will in­stead ask for solid ev­i­dence,” wrote Mu­rat Yetkin, ed­i­tor-in-chief of Hur­riyet Daily News.

Since the coup, Turkey has piled pres­sure on the United States to ex­tra­dite Gulen, a one-time Er­do­gan ally. “We need to let them — (the in­ves­ti­ga­tors) let the facts and the ev­i­dence take them where it is be­fore we jump to con­clu­sions,” said State De­part­ment spokesman John Kirby.

Dra­matic footage of Mon­day’s as­sas­si­na­tion showed Karlov stum­ble and crash to the ground as Alt­in­tas bran­dished his au­to­matic pis­tol at ter­ri­fied on­look­ers who cow­ered be­hind cock­tail ta­bles. The gun­man shouted “Al­lahu Ak­bar” (“God is great­est”) and “Don’t for­get Aleppo”, vow­ing that those re­spon­si­ble for events in Syria would be held ac­count­able.

Putin to at­tend fu­neral

Turkey and Rus­sia stand on op­po­site sides of the Syria con­flict, with Ankara back­ing rebels try­ing to top­ple Moscow ally Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad. But the rhetoric has warmed con­sid­er­ably since a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal was signed ear­lier this year and Moscow and Ankara are now work­ing closely to­gether to evac­u­ate cit­i­zens from the bat­tered city of Aleppo.

Karlov’s body was repa­tri­ated to Moscow on Tues­day af­ter an emo­tional cer­e­mony on the tar­mac of Ankara’s Esen­boga air­port at­tended by top Turk­ish of­fi­cials. In a highly un­usual scene at an air­port in mainly Mus­lim Turkey, a Russian Ortho­dox priest said prayers and swung in­cense over the cof­fin.

Karlov will be laid to rest on Thurs­day, Peskov said, adding that Putin had de­cided to post­pone his ma­jor an­nual press con­fer­ence sched­uled for the same day to Fri­day in or­der to at­tend.

ANKARA: Wreaths are left on the road lead­ing to the Russian em­bassy in Ankara on De­cem­ber 21, 2016, two days af­ter Russian ambassador to Turkey was gunned down by a Turk­ish po­lice­man.

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