Turkey arrests alleged killer of Russian pilot

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Ankara, April 1 (IANS) Turkish police have detained an alleged killer of a Russian pilot along with 13 other suspected militants in the western city of Izmir, the media reported on Friday.

Alpaslan Celik reportedly came to Izmir with 13 others and was detained while dining in a restaurant in the Aegean coast city, Xinhua cited Daily Sabah as saying.

A Kalashnikov rifle, two handguns and ammunition were also seized in the operation, the report said.

Press reports said the other detainees were suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

Celik, a Turkish national who fought inside Syria, allegedly killed a pilot of a Russian warplane after it was downed by Turkey in November last year.

“The detention of Alpaslan Celik is an important step and definitely a positive development for the amelioration of the two countries’ relations,” said Ismail Hakki Pekin, a retired general and former director of the intelligence department of the Turkish Joint Chief of Staff.

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Ankara-Moscow ties were chilled over the downing incident, with Russia slappng a series of sanctions against Turkey.

Russia has urged Turkey repeatedly to arrest Celik and other suspects, and make a compensation and apology over the incident.

“The detention of Celik as a Turkish citizen and his trial by Turkish justice is very important to overcome the deadlock in the two countries’ stalled relations,” said Hasan Selim Ozertem, an expert on Russia at the International Strategic Research Organisation, a non-profit, non-governmental body in Ankara that focuses on Turkish security and cooperation.

“After all he committed a war crime,” he said, adding that it will not be sufficient for normalised relations with Russia as Turkey has refused to apologise and compensate.

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