Russian ambassador’s body flown home from Turkey

Police detain six including three members of gunman’s family over murder of Andrei Karlov

The Russian ambassador to Turkey has died after being shot by a gunman in Ankara.

 

Police investigating the murder of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey on Monday have detained six people, including three members of the perpetrator’s family.

Andrei Karlov was shot dead while making a speech at an art gallery in Ankara by Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old off-duty policeman.

Altintas, who was himself shot dead by police 15 minutes later, shouted references to Russia’s war in Aleppo before and after firing 11 shots, nine of which are thought to have struck the ambassador.

Mr Karlov was a 62-year-old career diplomat with what had, until recently, been a very difficult job: keeping channels open between Ankara and Moscow after Turkey shot down a Russian war plane on the Syrian border 13 months ago.

“Those who carried out and orchestrated this attack did not kill Karlov. On the contrary, they wrote him into the history books,” said Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Tugrul Turkes, at a ceremony at Ankara airport before a plane carrying the diplomat’s body left for Moscow.

“Ambassador Andrei Karlov is now an immortal symbol of the Turkish-Russian friendship,” he said.

The metal detectors now commonplace in Turkey almost saved Mr Karlov’s life. But when the killer, who had been a police officer in Ankara for 2½ years, showed his police identification when entering the gallery, he was waved through.

An 18-member team of Russian investigators made up of pathologists, prosecutors and security officials was due in Turkey on Tuesday evening to assist in the investigation into the killing. The six people detained by Turkish police included the perpetrator’s father, mother and sister.

At the same time details about the gunman’s background were beginning to emerge.

Altintas was from the western province of Aydin, a rural if liberal region between the well-known holiday locations Kusadasi and Bodrum. He was reported by Turkish media to have taken the day off work on Monday, citing an illness, and booked into a hotel not far from the gallery in order to plan his attack.

Pro-government media outlets claimed Altintas was a member of the Gülen network, the organisation Ankara blames for a failed coup attempt last July.

Turkey has asked for the cleric Fethullah Gülen to be extradited from the United States, where he has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999, to face charges related to the coup attempt. Washington, however, says not enough evidence has been forthcoming to warrant that move.

Radical Islamist

Mr Gülen has denied responsibility for the coup and Monday’s attack and has condemned both events.

“The fact that the assailant also studied in a Gülen-linked prep school in his hometown Soke, a district of western Aydin province, also strengthens suspicions that he was involved with Gülen,” the Daily Sabah newspaper reported.

“A document issued by the Diyarbakir governorate shows that Altintas took two days of annual leave between July 16th and 18th, right after the July 15th coup attempt, which was perpetrated by Gülenist militants embedded in the ranks of Turkish military.”

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 Mr Gülen, who preaches a message of interfaith dialogue. “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.

In a separate incident, early on Tuesday a man fired shots in front of the US embassy in Ankara, close to the scene of the Russian ambassador’s killing, before being detained.

Additional reporting, Reuters