Turkey’s president Tayipp Erdogan implied that a Muslim cleric who is based in the United States was involved in the shooting of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey. He said that the shooter was a member of his terrorist organization.
On Monday evening, Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot to death by a Turkish assassin. The assassin has been identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas, a member of Ankara’s riot police squad. The assassin was killed during the attack.
The shooting happened at an art exhibition in Ankara where Karlov was set to give a speech. As Karlov began his speech, Altintas shouted “Allahu Akbar,” then shot the the ambassador multiple times. After shooting Karlov, the assassin took shelter behind a wall and began shooting at the police.
According to Ankara prosecutor’s office, the special forces police shot Altintas numerous times. The assassin was shot in the feet, legs, and knees. He shouted that he “would not be captured alive.”
He also shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria! Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.” Before has was killed by the police, he shouted “We are the one who pledged allegiance to Muhammad, to wage jihad.”
The relationship between Turkey and Russia have been strained. This is largely because of the fact that Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet last year. Both Turkey and Russia described the attack as an attempt to hinder their attempts at reconciliation.
United States Involvement
Shortly after the assassination, Turkish officials claimed that the trail of the attack leads to the United States. Altintas is believed to be a follower of Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is an Islamic cleric who is suspected to be behind the coup attempt that occurred in Turkey earlier this year. He is currently living in the United States.
On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry. During the conversation, Cavusoglu told Kerry that Turkey and Russia believe that the Gulenist Terror Organization was behind the assassination.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby has denied this claim. On Tuesday, he had the following to say:
“Any notion that the United States was in any way supportive of this or behind this or even indirectly involved is absolutely ridiculous.”
Turkish investigators are working to prove that Altintas had ties to Fethullah Gulen or his organization. Russia is also involved in the investigation. They sent an 18-person team to Turkey on Tuesday to collaborate with the Turkish authorities in the investigation.
President Tayyip Erdogan firmly believes that Altintas was a follower of Gulen. On Tuesday, he said:
“He was a member of the FETO (Fethullah Terrorist Organization). There is no point in hiding this.”
The international impact of this incident has not yet been determined.