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Turkish Police Continue Investigation Into Killing Of Russian Ambassador


We begin this hour with the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey and what it might mean for relations in that part of the world. Andrei Karlov had been involved in negotiations over Syria. Today, a plane carrying his body left Turkey for Russia, and Russian investigators arrived in Ankara to work with Turkish police. One thing they'll be looking at is the background of the suspect, an off-duty Turkish policeman. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: More information about the assailant and his movements is coming to light. Ankara Officials tell Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News that 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas was on a leave of absence and stayed at an Ankara hotel near the art exhibition where the shooting took place. He was stopped by security when he refused to go through the metal detector but was allowed to pass when he showed his police ID. Turkish police detained Altintas' roommate and family members for questioning. The investigating team will include more than a dozen Russians as Turkey scrambles to prevent this attack from derailing its attempt to normalize relations with Moscow.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Shouting in foreign language).

KENYON: A somber ceremony was held at Ankara's main airport as Ambassador Karlov's remains were loaded onto a plane bound for Russia. In Moscow, Russia hosted Turkish and Iranian diplomats for a meeting on Syria. The three countries sought to present a unified front. But that's not easy with Turkey supporting opposition rebels and Russia and Iran backing the Syrian government. With Iran's foreign minister looking on, Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for Tehran to stop funding the Lebanese Hezbollah militia that's fighting on the Syrian government's behalf.

MEVLUT CAVUSOGLU: (Through interpreter) We are talking about a countrywide cease-fire for Syria. Of course, this would not cover terror groups. The fight against these groups will continue. But there is the regime and rebels there. In addition to them, there are groups coming from outside of Syria, such as Hezbollah and others. All the support to these groups should be halted. We're talking about a cease-fire and a political resolution.

KENYON: Security was tight in Turkey following the assassination yesterday. Hours after the attack, which ended with Altintas being shot and killed by police, a gunman fired shots outside the U.S. embassy. The embassy and two U.S. consulates were closed for business today, as were Iran's diplomatic missions in Turkey. The assassination of Andrei Karlov was almost universally condemned, except among Syrian opposition rebels. One tweet posted by opposition commentator Moussa al-Omar says, quote, "this was not a game by Turkish intelligence or a conspiracy. It was simply a killing for the sake of the people of Aleppo."

Revenge for the Russian and Syrian bombing of rebel-held parts of Aleppo was what the assassin seemed to be calling for after he opened fire on Ambassador Karlov.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.