A Turkish policeman fatally shot Russia’s ambassador to Turkey on Monday in front of a shocked gathering at a photo exhibit and then, pacing near the body of his victim, appeared to condemn Russia’s military role in Syria, shouting: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” The leaders of Turkey and Russia said the attack in Ankara, the Turkish capital, was an attempt to disrupt efforts to repair ties between their countries, which have backed opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. (Source: Reuters)
People at the art gallery watched in horror as the gunman, who was wearing a dark suit and tie, fired at least eight shots, at one point walking around Ambassador Andrei Karlov as he lay motionless and shooting him again at close range. The assailant, who was identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old member of Ankara’s riot police squad, was later killed in a shootout with police. Three other people were wounded in the attack, authorities said.
Turkish police secure the area near the art gallery where the Russian Ambassador was shot in Ankara. (Source: Reuters)
The assassination came after days of protests by Turks angry over Russia’s support for President Bashar Assad in the Syrian conflict and Russia’s role in the bombardment and destruction of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The gunman shouted about Aleppo in Turkish, and also yelled “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” continuing in Arabic: “We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad.”
(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
The attack, condemned by the White House and the United Nations, was another sign of how Turkey, a NATO member and a partner in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group, is struggling to contain multiple security threats. The war in Syria has been a major problem for years, sending several million refugees into Turkey and, more recently, drawing in Turkish troops.
The spectacle of 62-year-old Karlov’s assassination by a member of the Turkish security forces at a photography exhibit meant to highlight Russian culture reinforced the sense of unease over the region’s conflict and complex web of alliances and relationships. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement after a meeting in Moscow later on Tuesday between the foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey and Russia would adopt tangible measures on Syria.
Andrei Karlov (Source: AP Photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the killing of Karlov as an attempt to damage Russia-Turkey ties “and to thwart a peace process in Syria which Russia, Turkey and Iran have been actively trying to promote.” Putin said he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed in a phone call that Russian investigators would fly to Ankara to conduct a joint probe with their Turkish counterparts. He ordered top officials to strengthen protection of the Turkish Embassy in Moscow and asked Turkey to increase security at the Russian mission in Ankara. (Source: IHA photo via AP)
Karlov was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in Ankara when he was gunned down. Altintas, the gunman, also fired shots in the air, sending panicked audience members running for cover, and smashed several of the framed photos hung for the exhibition. The floor was splattered with blood, and the ambassador’s eye glasses lay a few feet from his body. After shooting the ambassador, the gunman got into a 15-minute shootout with police before he was killed.
(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)