by WorldTribune Staff, December 22, 2016
The assassin who gunned down Russia’s ambassador to Turkey had served on security details to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan several times prior to the Dec. 19 assassination of Andrei Karlov.
Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, served on police details backing up Erdogan’s personal body guards eight times since the July 15 failed military coup in Turkey, according to a Hurriyet report on Dec. 21.
Altintas shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “don’t forget Aleppo” after he shot Karlov. After about 15 minutes of confrontation, Turkish police killed Altintas with a fatal shot to the neck.
Erdogan has blamed the attack on opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Speaking at a press conference on Dec. 21, Erdogan said he had “no doubt” Altintas was a member of Gulen’s organization, which the president claims has penetrated deeply into the Turkish police force.
The Kremlin has distanced itself from such claims, saying that it was “too early” to name Altintas’ possible accomplices.
“We shouldn’t rush with any theories before the investigators establish who were behind the assassination of our ambassador,” said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.
Russia has sent 18 detectives and intelligence officers to Ankara to take part in the investigation.
Earlier Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, was quoted as telling U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Turkey and Russia both believed Gulen’s followers were behind the attack.
The claim has been repeated in Turkish pro-government media, where it has been reported that Altintas had family links to the Gulen movement and that his cry of “Allahu Akbar” was an attempt to disguise himself as an Islamist.
Opposition media have questioned that assertion, pointing instead to the attacker’s apparent anger at Russia’s involvement in the war in Syria and what they described as Turkey’s increasing Islamification under the rule of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).