Turkey claims Gulen link to envoy killing

An orthodox clergyman prays next to the flag-wrapped coffin of late Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov during a ceremony at Esenboga airport in Ankara, Turkey, on December 20, 2016.  Veteran diplomat Andrei Karlov was shot nine times in the back by an off-duty Turkish policeman at the opening of an exhibition of Russian photography on December 19, 2016. The brazen killing stunned Ankara and Moscow, which have rowed repeatedly over the Syria conflict but in recent weeks have begun cooperating closely on the evacuations from war-wrecked Aleppo. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN


Istanbul / AFP

Turkish authorities were on Wednesday 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 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 organisation.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has strongly condemned the assassination. Media reports said that books on Gulen’s organisation 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.

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