Turkish police detain six after Russian
ambassador shot dead
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[December 20, 2016]
By Orhan Coskun and Daren Butler
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish police detained
six people over the killing of the Russian ambassador, state media said
on Tuesday, widening a probe to relatives of the off-duty policeman who
shouted "Don't forget Aleppo!" as he gunned the envoy down.
Both countries cast Monday's attack, which occurred at an art gallery in
the capital Ankara, as an attempt to undermine a recent thawing of ties
that have been strained by Syria's civil war, where they back opposing
The war, which has killed more than 300,000 people and created a power
vacuum exploited by Islamic State, reached a potential turning point
last week when Syrian forces ended rebel resistance in the northern city
Russia, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, supported that
advance with air strikes.
Turkey identified the killer as 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, who
had worked for the Ankara riot police for 2-1/2 years. Altintas, who
also shouted slogans associated with Islamist militancy after shooting
ambassador Andrey Karlov, was killed minutes later by members of
Turkey's special forces.
His mother, father, sister and two other relatives were held in the
western province of Aydin, while his flatmate in Ankara was also
detained, the state-run Anadolu agency said.
One senior Turkish security official said investigators were focusing on
whether Altintas had links to the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah
Gulen, who Ankara blames for a failed July coup. Gulen has denied
responsibility for the coup and Monday's attack and has condemned both
The slogans that Altintas shouted, which were captured on video and
circulated widely on social media, suggested he was aligned to a radical
Islamist ideology, rather than that of Gulen, who preaches a message of
"Don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria. You will not be able to feel
safe for as long as our districts are not safe. Only death can take me
from here," he shouted in Turkish.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he and Russia's Vladimir
Putin had agreed in a telephone call that their cooperation in fighting
terrorism should be even stronger after the killing.
Putin said it was aimed at derailing Russia's attempts to find, with
Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis.
The countries' foreign ministers were meeting on Tuesday.
'ALLEGIANCE TO JIHAD'
Turkey faces multiple security threats, including from Islamic State.
Earlier this month a spokesman for the hardline Sunni Muslim group urged
global sympathizers to carry out new attacks, singling out Turkish
diplomatic, military and financial interests as preferred targets.
[to top of second column]
Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov lies on the ground after
he was shot by Mevlut Mert Altintas at an art gallery in Ankara,
Turkey. Hasim Kilic/Hurriyet via REUTERS
Altintas also shouted "We are the ones who swore allegiance to
Mohammed for the jihad!", which the mass circulation Hurriyet
newspaper said that was a slogan commonly used in propaganda videos
of the group formerly allied to al Qaeda in Syria.
Media present at the event Karlov was attending, an exhibition of
photographs from Russia, captured the killing in graphic details.
Altintas, dressed smartly in a suit, necktie and white shirt, is
caught in one photograph standing behind Karlov. In a video, Karlov
is shown crumpling as he appears to be shot from behind.
As special forces stormed the building, Altintas initially waited by
the ambassador's body and would not allow him to be treated,
CNN Turk said medical records on the treatment of the ambassador
showed 11 shots were fired and nine were on target.
In a video message to the nation on Monday evening, Erdogan said
Altintas had graduated from a police school before joining the riot
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the street where the Russian
embassy is located would be named after the ambassador.
The gallery where the shooting occurred is opposite the U.S.
embassy. A gun was fired in front of the embassy overnight and the
United States said its three missions in Turkey would be closed on
On Tuesday morning a crime scene investigation van was parked
outside the gallery and police paced up and down behind a security
(Additional reporting by Issam Abdallah in Istanbul and Denis
Pinchuk and Peter Hobson in Moscow; Writing by David Dolan; Editing
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