ANKARA (AFP) – Russian investigators arrived in Turkey on Tuesday to probe the assassination of Moscow’s ambassador as the Turkish government pointed the finger of blame at exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Veteran diplomat Andrei Karlov was shot nine times in the back by off-duty Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas at the art gallery opening of a show of Russian photography on Monday.
The brazen killing stunned Ankara and Moscow, which have rowed repeatedly over the Syria conflict but had recently begun to cooperate closely on the evacuations from war-wrecked Aleppo.
An unprecedented three-way meeting on Syria between the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia and Iran went ahead in Moscow Tuesday despite the assassination, with the diplomats backing a widening of a truce.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meanwhile, pinned the assassination on Gulen’s group, which Ankara says also orchestrated an attempted coup in July, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
In a conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Cavusoglu said “Turkey and Russia know that behind the attack… there is FETO,” it said, referring to Turkey’s acronym for Gulen’s organisation.
The US-based Gulen had earlier issued a statement to condemn the assassination as a “terrorist act” that left him “shocked and deeply saddened.”
Six people have been detained over the Karlov assassination, including the sister, mother, father and uncle of the 22-year-old Altintas, Turkish media said.
Adding to the jitters, with Turkey already on high alert after a string of deadly attacks, an individual also fired outside the US embassy in Ankara overnight.