The Times-Tribune

Turkey, Russia team to probe assassinat­ion

- BY SUZAN FRASER AND ELENA BECATOROS

ANKARA, Turkey — Investigat­ors from Turkey and Russia hunted for clues Tuesday in the assassinat­ion of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in front of stunned onlookers at a photo exhibition in Ankara.

A team of 18 Russian investigat­ors and foreign ministry officials arrived in Turkey and began inspecting the art gallery where the shooting of Andrei Karlov took place.

Central to the joint Turkish-Russian investigat­ion is whether Mevlut Mert Altintas, a member of Ankara’s riot police squad, planned the attack alone.

One senior Turkish government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details

to the press, said it was unlikely Mr. Altintas 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: Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Jihadists.

Mr. Altintas shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” in Turkish during the attack, and also 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.”

Cleric blamed

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said the country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, provided U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry informatio­n on the assailant during a telephone conversati­on on 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 condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

Turkey has accused Mr. Gulen 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 alleged role in the coup attempt. Mr. Gulen has denied the accusation­s.

Few details about the policeman or the initial investigat­ion have been made public. According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Mr. Altintas took leave from work and on Dec. 14 made a hotel reservatio­n near the art exhibition center. He checked into the hotel on Monday. Following the attack, police searched and later sealed his hotel room, but did not announce whether anything was found there.

On arrival at the art gallery where the photo exhibition was taking place, Mr. 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, Mr. Altintas had been serving in Ankara’s riot police for the past two and a half years. But how or why he became impassione­d with the war in Syria was unclear.

 ?? EMRAH GUREL / ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? The wife, name not available, of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, who was assassinat­ed Monday, cries over her husband’s coffin during a ceremony at the airport in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday.
EMRAH GUREL / ASSOCIATED PRESS The wife, name not available, of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, who was assassinat­ed Monday, cries over her husband’s coffin during a ceremony at the airport in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday.
 ??  ?? KARLOV
KARLOV

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