‘Ludicrous claim’: US denies involvement in assassination of Russian envoy to Turkey
The US roundly denied accusations of being involved in the killing of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov, as Ankara links the chilling attack to Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled Turkish cleric residing in Pennsylvania with Washington’s approval.
“It’s a ludicrous claim, absolutely false, there’s no basis of truth in it whatsoever,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a daily press briefing on Tuesday.
Just hours after Ambassador Karlov was shot dead in Ankara, top Turkish officials claimed the trail of the shocking attack leads to the US.
“Any notion that the United States was in any way supportive of this or behind this or even indirectly involved is absolutely ridiculous,” Kirby added.
During a telephone conversation on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told US Secretary of State John Kerry that “both Turkey and Russia know the Gulenist Terror Cult (FETO) was behind Russian envoy Karlov’s assassination,” according to Daily Sabah.
Fethullah Gulen, the 74-year-old cleric, was a popular preacher and former imam before starting his own movement. He was a staunch ally of Erdogan when the Turkish leader was rising to power, but the two fell out and have become bitter rivals.
Ankara claims that Gulen created a “parallel state” in Turkey in the form of a network of supporters among Turkish officials, and accuses him of masterminding the failed military coup in July.
Commenting on the issue, Kirby said that Secretary Kerry “did raise his concerns about some of the rhetoric coming out of Turkey with respect to American involvement / support, tacit or otherwise, for this unspeakable assassination yesterday because of the presence of Mr. Gulen here in the United States.”
Kirby also promised a full readout of Kerry-Cavusoglu phone call, to be released soon.
Ambassador Karlov was attacked at an art exhibition in Ankara by an armed man said to be an off-duty Turkish police officer, Mevlut Altintas. The diplomat was several minutes into his opening speech when Altintas pulled out a gun, shouted “Allahu Akbar,” and fired multiple shots.
The man then shouted in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria! Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.” Before he was killed by Turkish Special Forces, he also yelled in Arabic: “We are the one who pledged allegiance to Muhammad, to wage jihad.”
Thirteen people in Turkey, including Altintas’ parents, sister, and two other relatives were detained in the western province of Aydin, as was his roommate in Ankara, Daily Sabah reported. Additional arrests were also carried out in Ankara province, according to NTV.
Ambassador Karlov’s body was flown back to Moscow on Tuesday evening after receiving military honors in Turkey. Russian secret services have launched an investigation into the killing.
In his time as ambassador, Karlov led his diplomatic mission through a troubled period in Russian-Turkish relations. He also served as Russian ambassador to North Korea. Russian officials, as well as foreign counterparts, describe him as an intelligent and extremely knowledgeable professional.