ISTANBUL: Police in Turkey claim to have detained a Turkish citizen accused by Moscow of killing a Russian pilot when he ejected over Syria after being shot down by one of Ankara’s war planes, reports said Thursday.
Alparslan Celik was detained along with a dozen others while they were eating at a restaurant in the Aegean city of Izmir, the Dogan news agency reported.
Acting on a tip-off, police raided the restaurant, and seized one Kalashnikov rifle, two pistols and ammunition.
Celik has been accused by Russia of killing Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov in cold blood as he parachuted to the ground after his plane was shot down by Turkish air forces on the Syrian border on November 24.
The shooting down of the Russian Su-24 and Peshkov’s killing caused an unprecedented crisis in relations between Ankara and Moscow.
It was not immediately clear if his arrest was linked to the incident with the Russian pilot of if it was on separate charges of possessing arms.
Fourteen people, including Celik, are being interrogated by the police, Dogan said.
Celik, the son of a prominent local politician from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has since 2014 been fighting alongside Turkmen forces in Syria.
The Turkmen, one of majority Arab Syria’s ethnic minorities, speak a language very similar to modern Turkish and are staunch allies of Ankara in fighting Syrian government forces.
Celik in January made a public appearance at a funeral for a Turkish nationalist local politician who was killed fighting with a Turkmen militia in Syria, outraging Moscow even further.
Russia’s ambassador to Ankara Andrei Karlov had in December directly accused Celik of shooting Peshkov. Celik has never directly confirmed or denied the circumstances of the pilot’s death.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in December also urged Turkey to arrest Celik and his accomplices and “bring them to justice for the murder of the Russian pilot. “