Russian ambassador’s assassin ‘guarded Recep Tayyip Erdogan’
Flowers at the entrance to the Russian Foreign Ministry pay tribute to the murdered ambassador Andrei Karlov.
Laura Pitel, Istanbul
Telegraph, 21 December 2016 • 6:53pm
The Turkish policeman who murdered Russia’s ambassador to Ankara provided security to Turkey’s president multiple times in the run up to Monday’s assassination, it has bean claimed.
Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, served on police details backing up Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s personal body guards eight times since the failed military coup that rocked Turkey in July, Abdülkadir Selvi, a columnist known for his close ties to the government, wrote in Hurriyet on Wednesday.
Alintas, who served on an elite Ankara riot unit for two and a half years, was part of the second tier of security at those events.
He was reported to have served on Mr Erdogan’s security detail twice in 2014 and 2015.
Altintas shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “don’t forget Aleppo” after he shot Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, on Monday.
The killing sent shockwaves through Moscow and Ankara and was condemned by the Turkish and Russian governments as a “provocation” designed to sabotage a fragile rapprochement between them.
Mr Erdogan on Wednesday blamed the attack on Fettulah Gulen, a US-based preacher and critic of Mr Erdogan, who has also been accused of orchestrating the failed coup in July.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Erdogan said he had “no doubt” Altintas was a member of Mr Gulen’s organisation and that it had penetrated deeply into the country’s 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.
Mr Peskov added that the murder was a “certainly a blow to [Turkey’s] prestige.”
Russia has sent 18 detectives and intelligence officers to Ankara to take part in the investigation. Turkish media reported on Wednesday that Altintas’ mobile phone may be sent to Moscow for analysis.
Earlier Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, was quoted as telling John Kerry, the US secretary of state, that Turkey and Russia both believed Mr Gulen’s followers were behind the attack.
The claim has been repeated in pro-government media, where it has been claimed that Mr 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 Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Melvut Mert Altintas watches Andrey Karlov speak at a gallery in Ankara shortly before the attack on Monday night.
Mr Gulen has denied involvement.
A guard of honour carry Andrey Karlov’s flag-draped coffin as it arrives in Moscow on Tuesday night.
The claims came as it emerged that medics were unable to reach the wounded Karlov for 45 minutes while police engaged Altintas in a deadly shootout.
A special operations police team arrived on the Ankara’s Modern Arts Centre around twenty minutes after the murder, which took place at around 7.05pm on Monday evening.
Officers repeatedly called on Altintas to surrender but he continued firing on them, even after being shot four times in the feet and legs.
Eventually, after about 15 minutes of confrontation, they killed him with a fatal shot to the neck. It was only then that medical staff were able to tend to the Russian ambassador, who had been lying prostrate on the cold, grey gallery floor.
It was too late to save him. Mr Karlov’s family flew back to Russia with the ambassador’s body on Tuesday.
He will be buried in a ceremony attended by Mr Putin on Thursday.
Mr Putin posthumously appointed the diplomat a Hero of Russia, the country’s highest honour, the Kremlin said.
The Kremlin said it had postponed Mr Putin’s annual press conference until Friday to allow the president to attend the funeral.