Putin and Erdogan Try to Pin the Envoy’s Assassination on Western Intelligence

The assassin who murdered Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov at a photo exhibit in an Ankara art gallery on Monday, Dec. 19, left no clues for MIT investigators to identify the party which ordered his mission.
Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, member of the Turkish Special Forces, was shot dead while holding the lethal gun in his hand and delivering a rant that included Arabic verses from the anthem of the Al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebel Nusra Front [which has relabeled itself the Fatah al-Sham Front], and a vow of vengeance for Aleppo.
His words showed where his sympathies were – but not whether he was acting for a group or as a free-lancer. But his actions undeniably exposed Turkey’s Police Special Forces as having been penetrated by an alien intelligence service or a terrorist organization.
Atlinas’ actions strongly suggested he was acting to a script.
He took a leave of absence for Dec. 19 and booked into a hotel close to the Contemporary Arts Center in Ankara. Shortly before the ambassador’ speech at the opening of a photo exhibition, the assassin shaved and dressed carefully in a smart suit and tie, before leaving his room and walking a short way to the gallery. There, he showed his police ID and was admitted.
Someone figured that he was right for the mission because, as a familiar figure to the security guards, he would not be stopped at the gate or when he got close to his victim.
This modus operandi is unusual for most Islamist terrorist organizations, and it is hard to believe that the Nusra Front had the necessary inside knowledge to precisely brief the assassin on the ambassador’s movements and schedule.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan read from the same page when they said that the assassination was “undoubtedly a provocation aimed at disrupting the normalization of bilateral ties and the peace process in Syria.” They appeared to presume that a foreign spy agency was responsible and had used the Turkish cop’s Islamist connections to cover its tracks.
By shouting “Get back, only death will take me from here,” he triggered the police shots that killed him. This was not standard Islamist terrorist suicide procedure, but coolly planned to make sure that Atlintas never survived the attack to be grilled and name his secret controllers.
The internal political element in Ankara cannot be ignored.
The Erdogan government lost no time in pointing the finger for the Russian envoy’s assassination at the exiled opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the president accused, back in July, of pulling the strings behind the failed military coup against him from his US exile.
The conversation between Erdogan and Putin was in a sense the sequel to certain events surrounding the July coup, when Russian newspapers claimed that Russian intelligence had saved Erdogan by its tipoff to Turkish intelligence.
Hmeimim air base in Syria was reported to have intercepted and decoded sensitive Turkish military radio signals revealing that the plotters had planned to send helicopters over Erdogan’s hotel in Marmaris, where he was on holiday, to capture or kill him. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed to have passed this information to the Turkish MIT intelligence agency, which forewarned the president in time to thwart the conspiracy.
To this day, Erdogan accuses Gulen of masterminding the coup and every subsequent manifestation of opposition to his regime. He constantly badgers Washington to extradite him.
Putin and Erdogan appear to be setting the stage once again for an assault on Western intelligence services. They now charge the West with following up on their aborted coup with a new conspiracy to stir up trouble between Moscow and Ankara and sabotage Russian-Turkish strategic cooperation. Turkish media are hinting that Altintas was their tool.

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