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US-based cleric Gulen ‘shocked’ by Russian envoy’s killing

US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in the capital Ankara, in a statement late Monday

world Updated: Dec 20, 2016 14:14 IST
AFP
Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov lies on the ground after he was shot by Mevlut Mert Altintas at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, December 19, 2016.
Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov lies on the ground after he was shot by Mevlut Mert Altintas at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, December 19, 2016. (REUTERS)

US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in the capital Ankara, in a statement late Monday.

A Turkish policeman crying “Aleppo!” and “Allahu Akbar!” fatally shot Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov while he was addressing visitors to a photo exhibition earlier in the day.

Read | Sharp-suited killer of Russian ambassador ‘used police ID’ to enter Ankara show

Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek had earlier speculated on his official Twitter account that the gunman may have been linked to the exiled preacher, whom the government blames for the July coup aimed at toppling President Erdogan.

“I condemn in the strongest terms this heinous act of terror,” Gulen said in a statement.

“No terrorist act can be justified, regardless of its perpetrators and their stated purposes,” he added. “It is the expectation of the Turkish people and the world that the government investigate the circumstances of this incident, identify those who aided the perpetrator and take the necessary precautions so that such an attack cannot be staged in the future.”

Read | ‘Strong signs’ gunman who killed Russian envoy linked to US-based cleric: Official

Gulen, who has been based in the United States since the late 1990s, has vehemently denied the claims of his involvement in the coup.

The comments by Gokcek, the Ankara mayor, were echoed Tuesday by the pro-government press, which also alleged the gunman had ties to Gulen.

However, no ministerial-level official has repeated the claims so far.

A former close ally of Erdogan’s, Gulen also criticized the government over the gunman, a police officer who had served with the anti-riot police.

“Turkish and international experts repeatedly have pointed out the deterioration of security and counter-terrorism efforts due to the Turkish government’s assigning hundreds of counter-terrorism police officers to unrelated posts, as well as the firing and imprisoning (of) many others since 2014,” Gulen said.

He also urged Turkey and Russia to work toward resolving the Syrian conflict.

“This despicable act of shooting an ambassador, who represents an entire nation, only exacerbates the Syrian conflict that has already taken too many lives and driven too many from their homelands, like adding fuel to a fire.”