Turkish Official: Envoy’s Killer Unlikely to Have Been Alone

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -
Members of a Turkish forces honor guard carry the Russian-flag-draped coffin of Ambassador Andrei Karlov, as an officer holds his picture during a ceremony at the airport in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The Turkish policeman who assassinated Russia’s ambassador was unlikely to have acted alone, a senior Turkish government official said Tuesday, as investigators from both countries hunted for clues as to who might have been behind the killing.

Russian investigators on Tuesday inspected the art gallery in the Turkish capital of Ankara where Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead Monday evening by Mevlut Mert Altintas. The 22-year-old gunman, a member of Ankara’s riot police squad, had shouted slogans about the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo as he killed the envoy.

Russia’s entrance into Syria’s war helped turn the tide of the conflict and heralded a series of victories for government forces. Up until a few months ago, the Russian military was bombing rebel positions in Aleppo.

The senior government official described the killing as “fully professional, not a one-man action” and said the attack was well-planned. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because he was not authorized to release details to the press.

Turkish authorities have not publicly released any information on the investigation or on a possible motive for the policeman.

Still, Turkish police have detained seven people in connection with the gunman: his parents, sister, three other relatives and his roommate in Ankara, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the news agency, Altintas took leave from work and on Dec. 14 made a hotel reservation near the art exhibition center. He arrived at the hotel on Monday. Police searched his hotel room, which was later sealed.

Karlov’s body was flown home to Moscow on Tuesday afternoon after an emotional ceremony at Ankara Airport attended by Turkish government officials and diplomats. Karlov’s wife, Marina Karlova, wept as her husband’s flag-draped coffin was carried by a Turkish honor guard. She laid two red carnations on the coffin before it was loaded onto the aircraft.

Karlov’s assassination came after days of protests by Turks angry over Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russia’s role in the bombardment and destruction of rebel parts of Aleppo.

“Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” Altintas shouted during the attack, shooting Karlov as Karlov delivered a speech at a photo exhibition in the Turkish capital. Altintas was later killed by police in a different part of the building.