Moscow, Ankara present united front post Russian envoy’s murder

London [UK], Dec. 21 : Following the shocking murder of Moscow's ambassador by a gunman in Ankara, Russia and Turkey have put on a strong united front, asserting that the horrific incident would not affect bilateral relations, or cooperation over Syria.

According to the Guardian, the Turkish foreign and defence ministers joined their Russian and Iranian counterparts in Moscow, where the three countries said they had started work on a new plan to resolve the Syrian conflict.

The body of Andrei Karlov was flown back to Russia after a ceremony at Ankara airport attended by senior Turkish officials and presided over by a Russian Orthodox priest.

Meanwhile, the parents, sister, roommate and two other relatives of the gunman, named as off-duty riot police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, were being questioned by Turkish authorities.

A team of 18 Russian investigators arrived in the country to work on a joint probe into the killing. Karlov was shot multiple times by Altintas on Monday evening, during the opening of a photography exhibition at a gallery in the Turkish capital.

Altintas was shot by police at the scene. While some initially feared a setback in tie similar to the aftermath of Turkey shooting down a Russian fighter jet in late 2015, officials from both countries were quick to stress their desire for cooperation in the aftermath of the attack.

Instead, both countries emphasised their joint work on Syria and said they were committed to fighting terrorism.

Vladimir Putin called Karlov's murder a "provocation" aimed at undermining improved relations between the two countries and their efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria.

"There can be only one answer to this: stepping up the fight against terrorism, and the bandits will feel this," said the Russian president.

Turkish officials suggested Altintas had ties to the movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a US-based preacher whose group is widely believed in Turkey to have masterminded a coup attempt in July.

However, Gulen issued a statement denying any connection to the attack. "I condemn in the strongest terms this heinous act of terror," he said. "No terrorist act can be justified, regardless of its perpetrators and their stated purposes." The Turkish interior ministry said Altintas was an officer in Ankara's riot police squad, who was born in 1994 in Aydin and graduated from Izmir police academy.

He had worked for the riot police for the past two and a half years. Altintas was stationed in the restive city of Diyarbakir during the coup attempt in July, one official told the Guardian.

Several classmates of the gunman who spoke with investigators said Altintas had Gulenist sympathies, the official claimed, and two police officers who wrote recommendation letters when he applied to the police academy have been dismissed over alleged ties to the Gulen movement.

It is believed that Altintas took a taxi to the Best Hotel behind the art exhibit from the neighbourhood of Kecioren where he lived with a roommate, in civilian clothes and carrying a suit and a travel bag.

When asked by the taxi driver whether he was travelling onwards anywhere, he said: "Yes, tonight." He flashed his police ID at security guards when entering the exhibition and was allowed to pass despite his gun setting off the metal detector, according to reports.

Footage of the attack showed Altintas, dressed in a suit and tie, standing calmly behind the ambassador.

He then pulled out a gun and shouted "Allahu Akbar". Forensic analysis showed that Altintas fired his gun - a Nato-standard 9mm handgun - 11 times. Nine bullets were found inside the ambassador's body. After firing at the ambassador, he shouted in Turkish: "Don't forget Aleppo. Don't forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won't enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.".

Source: ANI