Was it possible to take the Russian ambassador’s killer alive?

Members of police special forces patrol outisde the Russian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 20, 2016.

Members of police special forces patrol outisde the Russian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 20, 2016.

It was possible not to kill the assassin of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, but take him alive, argue some Russian experts. This would have helped to shed light on the crime, including on who may have ordered the assassination. One Russian observer even believes that the killer was liquidated on purpose in order to complicate the investigation.

The assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov has been the top story for the Turkish press. Yet there is very little information on what the Turkish law-enforcement agents did to detain the killer.

It is known that at about 7:30 p.m. local time Karlov arrived at the Center of Modern Art in Ankara to participate in the opening of a photo exhibition. His speech had lasted for less than a minute when the killer, who was standing behind him, took a gun out of his pocket and crying "Allahu Akbar" shot Karlov in the back several times. In total the assassin fired 11 shots into the diplomat.

Afterwards, he cried out slogans about Aleppo and Syria for several minutes and shot at the ceiling and towards the scattered crowd.

Twenty-five minutes after the assassination, the killer was shot dead by members of Turkey's special units. The assassin was later named as 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintash, who for the last two years had served in a division of the local Interior Ministry special forces responsible for crowd control.

It was possible to take him alive

According to Boris Dolgov, senior scientific collaborator at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Middle East Institute, Karlov's assassination could have been either the act of a lone killer or a well-planned operation.

"I think it's strange that Altintas was killed. There was the possibility of taking him alive, then questioning him and getting him to tell the authorities who he was linked to," said Dolgov.

Why wasn’t killer captured?

Andrei Popov, a veteran of the Federal Security Service’s Alpha special unit and a reserve lieutenant colonel, analyzed the operation carried out on Altintas.

"It is always difficult to discuss an operation when you are not present on the site and far from the concrete circumstances surrounding it,” said Popov.

“However, it is obvious that by the time the Turkish special forces got involved, the ambassador's killer had already disclosed himself as the culprit. On the video that I saw it is also clear that the criminal did not prevent the people from leaving the building and did not try to take hostages. It was possible to take him alive."

Popov believes that this opportunity was not taken advantage of due to a disagreement among the Turkish law enforcement officers or to their unprofessionalism.

"In such cases the mechanism of detainment is already prepared: The object is shot in the right shoulder, which deprives him of the possibility to put up active resistance. Subsequently, he is detained,” he explained.

Popov added that he “did not rule out” that Altintas could have had accomplices in Turkey's special forces and security services who had “decided to eliminate him so that he wouldn't tell the investigators all the circumstances of the assassination.”

Meanwhile, on Dec. 20, 18 employees from Russia's Investigative Committee and Foreign Ministry arrived in Ankara. They will be investigating Karlov's assassination together with the Turkish law enforcement agents. According to the local press, the Russian ambassador's body was delivered to the Expert Forensic Institute in Ankara for examination and on Dec. 20 was flown to Moscow.

First published in Russian by Gazeta.ru 

Read more: Turkish police arrest 13 suspects tied to Russian envoy’s murder

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