Turkey detains alleged killer of Russian pilot downed over Syria border
Turkish ultranationalist Alparslan Celik, who bragged about killing the pilot of a Russian Su-24 bomber downed by the Turkish Air Force on the Syrian border last November, has been arrested in his home country.
Celik was detained on Wednesday evening while he was dining at a restaurant in the city of Izmir in western Turkey, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
The reasons for the arrest of the radical weren’t disclosed.
Celik was arrested along with 13 other people, according to the paper.
Celik, the second-in-command of the Turkmen Coastal Division, said his group killed the pilot of a Russian Su-24 bomber after the warplane was shot down by Turkish fighter jets on November 24, 2015.
The Russian officer, later identified as Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov, was shot dead as he was parachuting to the ground, according to the militants that fought against the Syrian Army.
Celik justified his actions by saying it was rightful retaliation for the alleged bombing of Turkmens in Syria.
“That pilot bombed us five minutes [before Turkey downed the Russian jet] and our brothers were killed or wounded by these bombs. There is no place for a person who has bombed civilian Turkmens every day in my conscience,” the radical said in an earlier interview.
Celik is a Turkish citizen, the son of a former district mayor elected from Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and a member of the party’s unofficial youth military arm, Bozkurtlar.
Moscow demanded that Ankara arrest Celik and try him for the killing of the Russian pilot, and for being a member of an unlawful armed group.
However, Turkey ignored the demand and the ultranationalist has continued to give interviews and travel freely in Turkey and across the border into Syria.
The downing of the Russian warplane caused a major rift in Russian-Turkish relations and led to a wave of sanctions introduced by Moscow against Ankara.
Turkey was never able to back up its claims with hard proof that the Su-24 violated its aerospace before the attack.
Moscow has denied that any breach occurred, calling the incident a staged provocation and accusing the Turkish government of supporting terrorist forces in Syria.