ANKARA – Police in Turkey have rounded up the family of Russian ambassador’s assassin, who was accused of taking part in the failed coup against President Erdogan in July.
According to reports in Turkish media, the assassin belongs to a secular family and the women in Altintas’s family do not wear the hijab (a Muslim veil).
Further details suggest Altintas was one of some 8,000 fired from the police as a result of an investigation into the July ‘coup’ against President Erdogan. Turkish media pointed out that Altintas took two days’ holiday immediately after the coup.
There are also questions about how 22-year-old trained riot policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas came to shoot dead Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov at a gallery opening in Ankara on Monday.
The assassin graduated from Izmir’s police vocational school and served for at least two years in the riot police.
A computer and documents have been seized by Turkish police from the family home in Soke, 35 miles south-west of the city of Aydin, near the Aegean coast, where his father Esrafil, mother Hamidiye, and his sister, Seher Ozeroglu, who works in a clothes shop, live.
The killer is claimed to have stayed with journalist and blogger Abdullah Bozkurt who is accused of radical connections and predicted three days ago that ‘foreign embassies are no longer safe in Turkey.’
Bozkurt denied the killer stayed with him.
His parents, sister and flatmate were in custody on Tuesday undergoing questioning about his motives, and whether he was linked to an extremist group.
The Turkish authorities have acted to crush what they call the Gulenist Terror Organisation FETO. The government says Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999, created a ‘parallel network’ in the police, military, judiciary and civil service aimed at overthrowing the state. Gulen denies this.
On Tuesday, prominent newspaper linked the assassination to the group. ‘An attack on friendship by treacherous FETO,’ said Sabah daily. ‘A bullet from FETO,’ added the Star daily.
But the Gulen movement has refuted any connection, with media representative Alp Aslandogan adding that the exiled cleric condemned the murder as a ‘heinous act’.
Another theory is that the killer stayed at a hotel in recent days to plan the attack.
Pro-government Sabah daily said Altintas set off the metal detector security check when he entered the exhibition in central Ankara as he was carrying a gun.
But after showing his police ID, he was waved through and allowed to proceed.
Hurriyet daily claimed he had put on a suit and tie and shaved at the hotel before heading to the exhibition centre. Before he was shot dead himself by special forces, Altintas shouted in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!”
He then warned journalists filming the event: “Stand back! Stand back! Only death will take me out of here. Anyone who has a role in this oppression will die one by one.”
Another theory is that he had been radicalized by a Jihadist group in Syria.
It is claimed that during his youth he had been an active member of President Erdogan’s AKP party and may have been linked with the Al Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
In Arabic, Altintas can reportedly be heard saying: “We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad for jihad.”
According to local media, his words are similar to the unofficial anthem of Al Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda.