Turkey links Rus­sian diplo­mat’s as­sas­sin to U.S.-based cleric.

Er­do­gan says is part of a plot to over­throw his lead­er­ship

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SUZAN FRASER

ANKARA, TURKEY | Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan on Wed­nes­day im­pli­cated a U.S.-based Mus­lim cleric in the killing of

Rus­sia’s en­voy to

Turkey, say­ing the po­lice­man who car­ried out the at­tack was a mem­ber of the cleric’s “ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Am­bas­sador An­drei Karlov was killed Mon­day eve- ning by a gun­man in front of stunned on­look­ers at a photo ex­hi­bi­tion in Ankara. The as­sas­sin, Mev­lut Mert Alt­in­tas of Ankara’s riot po­lice squad, was killed in a po­lice oper­a­tion.

“He [Alt­in­tas] was a mem­ber of the FETO ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion. There is no point in hid­ing this,” Mr. Er­do­gan said dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence with his vis­it­ing Al­ba­nian coun­ter­part. “From the places he was raised to his con­nec­tions — that’s what they point at.”

Turkey has ac­cused Fethul­lah Gulen — a for­mer ally who has turned into Mr. Er­do­gan’s top foe — of try­ing to desta­bi­lize Turkey and says his move­ment is be­hind a failed mil­i­tary coup in July aimed at top­pling the Turk­ish leader.

Mr. Gulen has de­nied any in­volve­ment in the coup. His move­ment also con­demned “in the strong­est terms” the am­bas­sador’s assassination.

Turkey’s gov­ern­ment, how­ever, has la­beled the move­ment “the FETO ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tion,” and has cracked down on Mr. Gulen’s fol­low­ers, ar­rest­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple for their al­leged link to the coup and purg­ing more than 100,000 sus­pected sup­port­ers from gov­ern­ment jobs.

Turkey also is press­ing the United States to ex­tra­dite Mr. Gulen so he may be pros­e­cuted for the coup at­tempt and other al­leged crimes.

Mr. Er­do­gan told re­porters that Turkey’s in­tel­li­gence agency also is look­ing into Alt­in­tas’ pos­si­ble foreign con­nec­tions, say­ing there were “cer­tain clues” in­di­cat­ing over­seas links. He did not elab­o­rate.

Turkey has been rife with spec­u­la­tion about Alt­in­tas’ mo­tive and pos­si­ble links to Mr. Gulen, but Mr. Er­do­gan’s state­ment was the first time a se­nior of­fi­cial openly blamed the killing on the move­ment.

On Tues­day evening Turk­ish Foreign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu spoke with Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry by phone and pro­vided in­for­ma­tion on the as­sailant, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial in his min­istry. The of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity in line with gov­ern­ment rules, said Mr. Cavu­soglu also told Mr. Kerry that both Turkey and Rus­sia “know” that Mr. Gulen’s move­ment was be­hind the at­tack.

Dur­ing the phone call, Mr. Kerry raised con­cerns about “some of the rhetoric com­ing out of Turkey with re­spect to Amer­i­can in­volve­ment or sup­port, tacit or other­wise, for this un­speak­able assassination yes­ter­day be­cause of the pres­ence of Mr. Gulen here in the United States,” said Kerry spokesman John Kirby.

“It’s a lu­di­crous claim, ab­so­lutely false,” Mr. Kirby said. “We need to let the in­ves­ti­ga­tors do their job, and we need to let the facts and the ev­i­dence take them where it is be­fore we jump to con­clu­sions.”

Rus­sia flew a team of 18 in­ves­ti­ga­tors and Foreign Min­istry of­fi­cials to Turkey to par­tic­i­pate in the investigation. In Moscow, Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s spokesman in­di­cated that Rus­sia doesn’t be­lieve the 22-year-old gun­man acted on his own, but re­fused to ex­plain the rea­sons for the sus­pi­cion.

“We shouldn’t rush with any the­o­ries be­fore the in­ves­ti­ga­tors es­tab­lish who were be­hind the assassination of our am­bas­sador,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wed­nes­day.


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