Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek signaled as much yesterday in the immediate aftermath of the startling assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karsov. Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making it happen today. Its clear that the assassin indeed had strong links to the Gulen movement: Emre Peker reports in the Wall Street Journal:
The initial phase of Turkey’s investigation is focusing on U.S.-based Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen and his religious network, according to three Turkish officials.
Turkey has charged Mr. Gulen and his alleged followers with plotting the July 15 coup attempt. Mr. Gulen rejects the accusations and a spokeswoman denied allegations that Mr. Karlov’s assassination was in any way linked to the imam.
The investigation remained in the early stages, as a team of 18 Russian investigators arrived in Ankara to assist the probe.
The 22-year-old assassin, Mevlut Mert Altintas, prepared for Monday evening’s attack at a hotel in downtown Ankara near the contemporary art center when the Russian envoy was to speak, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. The area is home to major embassies and parliament.
Mr. Altintas called the hotel last Wednesday to reserve a room for Monday night and checked in before heading to the gallery, where Mr. Karlov was to give an opening speech at an exhibit of photographs of Russian landscapes.
A Turkish security official said it was clear that Mr. Altintas was on a suicide mission. But it was unclear whether the assassin had any ties with known extremist or political groups.
Six people detained overnight were family members of the assassin, according to Anadolu. One of them, Mr. Altintas’s uncle, was the headmaster of the Kusadasi American Turkish Academy in the province of Aydin. The school was closed by decree for its alleged affiliation with the Gulen network after the failed coup, as Turkey clamped down on what authorities were the organization’s financial and recruitment resources.
Counterterrorism police in Izmir also detained a suspect identified as a Mr. Altintas’s police-academy supervisor, according to Anadolu. Two brothers of the detainee were arrested in operations against the Gulen network following the failed coup.
Turkish officials said they are also pursuing other leads that may establish a connection between Mr. Altintas and Mr. Gulen’s movement, which Turkey classifies as a terrorist organization.
“We are looking into other possibilities too, there’s no definitive finding, but we’re focused on Gulen links,” the security official said, playing down the likelihood of ties to Syrian rebels or jihadist groups.
Erdogan tried desperately to blame the July 15 coup attempt on Gulen’s followers in Turkey while the iman pulled the strings from his Pennsylvania compound. If these links turn out to be true, momentum for Gulen’s extradition to back to Turkey will pick up. Even more telling is the fact that President-elect Donald Trump’s top national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret.) has called for Gulen’s extradition, calling him a radical cleric who runs a charter school scam.