Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tors seek clues in diplo­mat’s assassination.

In­ves­ti­ga­tor says gun­man likely had help

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SUZAN FRASER AND ELENA BECATOROS

ANKARA, TURKEY | In­ves­ti­ga­tors from Turkey and Rus­sia hunted for clues Tues­day in the assassination of Moscow’s am­bas­sador to Turkey in front of stunned on­look­ers at a photo ex­hi­bi­tion in Ankara, while strain­ing to keep bi­lat­eral ten­sions in check.

A team of 18 Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tors and Foreign Min­istry of­fi­cials ar­rived in Turkey and be­gan in­spect­ing the art gallery where An­drei Karlov was shot.

One se­nior Turk­ish gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity, said it was un­likely that the gun­man, 22-year-old Mev­lut Mert Alt­in­tas, a mem­ber of Ankara’s riot po­lice squad, acted alone. The of­fi­cial said the killing had all the marks of be­ing “fully pro­fes­sional, not a one-man ac­tion.”

So far, au­thor­i­ties have de­tained only peo­ple close to the gun­man in their investigation: Alt­in­tas’ par­ents, sis­ter, three other rel­a­tives and his room­mate in Ankara.

In­de­pen­dent Turk­ish se­cu­rity an­a­lyst Ab­dul­lah Agar said it was “likely that an or­ga­ni­za­tion was be­hind” the assassination.

The an­a­lyst said that Alt­in­tas’ be­hav­ior and the man­ner in which he car­ried out the at­tack “gives the im­pres­sion that he re­ceived train­ing that was much more than riot po­lice train­ing.”

Mr. Agar also said the gun­man’s words, which he ut­tered in Ara­bic, were from a pas­sage fre­quently cited by Is­lamic ji­hadi groups such as the Is­lamic State that are ac­tive in neigh­bor­ing Syria and Iraq.

Alt­in­tas shouted, “Don’t for­get Aleppo! Don’t for­get Syria!” in Turk­ish dur­ing the at­tack, and yelled, “Al­lahu ak­bar,” the Ara­bic phrase for “God is great.” He con­tin­ued in Ara­bic: “We are the de­scen­dants of those who sup­ported the Prophet Muham­mad, for ji­had.”

A Turk­ish Foreign Min­istry of­fi­cial said the coun­try’s foreign min­is­ter, Mev­lut Cavu­soglu, gave Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry in­for­ma­tion on the as­sailant dur­ing a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion Tues­day.

Mr. Cavu­soglu also told Mr. Kerry that both Turkey and Rus­sia “know” that a move­ment led by U.S.-based Mus­lim cleric Fethul­lah Gulen was be­hind the at­tack, the of­fi­cial said, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity in line with gov­ern­ment rules.

Turkey has ac­cused Mr. Gulen, who lives in ex­ile in ru­ral Penn­syl­va­nia, of or­ches­trat­ing a failed mil­i­tary coup in July aimed at top­pling Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and ac­cuses the cleric of want­ing to desta­bi­lize Turkey. It is press­ing the United States to ex­tra­dite Mr. Gulen to Turkey to stand trial for his sus­pected role in the coup at­tempt. Mr. Gulen has de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has said there is not enough ev­i­dence legally to force him to leave.

Few de­tails about the po­lice­man or the ini­tial investigation have been made public. Ac­cord­ing to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Alt­in­tas took leave from work and on Dec. 14 made a ho­tel reser­va­tion near the art ex­hi­bi­tion cen­ter.

On ar­rival at the art gallery where the photo ex­hi­bi­tion was tak­ing place Mon­day, Alt­in­tas was ap­par­ently ini­tially stopped by se­cu­rity, but man­aged to get through with his weapon by us­ing his po­lice ID. The gun he used to shoot Mr. Karlov ap­peared to be a weapon that is stan­dard is­sue for Turkey’s riot po­lice.

Orig­i­nally from the west­ern town of Soke, near Turkey’s Aegean coast, Alt­in­tas had been serv­ing in Ankara’s riot po­lice for the past 2½ years. How or why he be­came im­pas­sioned with the war in Syria was un­clear.

Rus­sia and Turkey have vowed that the assassination would not de­rail ef­forts to re­pair bi­lat­eral ties. Turkey and Rus­sia have been at odds mainly over their op­pos­ing views to the con­flict in Syria, with Moscow back­ing ally Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad and Ankara sup­port­ing rebels fight­ing to de­pose him. With Rus­sia’s air sup­port, Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces have pushed the rebels out of their last foothold in Aleppo.

Mr. Karlov was as­sas­si­nated after days of protests by Turks an­gry over Moscow’s sup­port of Mr. As­sad and Rus­sia’s ac­tions in Aleppo.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Turk­ish po­lice guard the arts cen­ter where Rus­sian Am­bas­sador An­drei Karlov was as­sas­si­nated Mon­day. Turkey and Rus­sia are more com­mit­ted than ever to ad­vance Syria peace ef­forts, the foreign min­is­ters said.

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