Russian ambassador to Turkey assassinated by policeman
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Russian ambassador to Turkey assassinated by policeman

Andrey Karlov killed by gunman shouting 'don't forget Aleppo' and 'revenge' at opening of Ankara art exhibition, amid increasing tensions over Syria

A man gestures near to Andrei Karlov on ground, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
A man gestures near to Andrei Karlov on ground, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

A police officer crying “Aleppo” and “revenge” shot and killed Russia’s ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov during the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara Monday.

The foreign ministry in Moscow confirmed that Karlov died of his wounds in the attack, which came amid roiling tensions over the fate of Syria.

Turkish police shot and killed the gunman, a local policeman identified by authorities as Mevlut Mert Altintas, born in 1994.

Karlov was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital, Ankara, when Altintas, wearing a suit and tie and standing near him like a bodyguard, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and fired at least eight shots, according to an AP photographer in the audience.

Altintas also smashed some of the photos hung for the exhibition. There was panic as people ran for cover. NTV said three other people were wounded in the attack.

Yelling in Turkish, the gunman shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!”

Altintas then yelled: “Stand back! Stand back! Only death will take me out of here. Anyone who has a role in this oppression will die one by one.”

The attack happened at the Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi, a major art exhibition hall in the Cankaya district of Ankara where most foreign embassies are located including Russia’s mission.

“It happened during the opening of an exhibition,” Hurriyet correspondent Hasim Kilic, who was at the exhibition, told AFP.

“He said something about Aleppo and ‘revenge’. He ordered the civilians to leave the room. When people were fleeing, he fired again,” he added.

This picture taken on December 19, 2016 in Ankara shows guests leaving a gallery as a gunman holds a weapon, during an attack where Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, was shot. (AFP/ Hurryet/Hasim KILIC)
This picture taken on December 19, 2016 in Ankara shows guests leaving a gallery as a gunman holds a weapon, during an attack where Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, was shot. (AFP/ Hurryet/Hasim KILIC)

Turkey’s interior minister Suleyman Soylu said that Altintas had been working for the riot police squad in Ankara for the past 2 1/2 years. He was not believed to be on duty when the shooting happened.

The foreign ministry in Moscow described the incident as a “terrorist act.”

“Today in Ankara as a result of an attack the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov received wounds that he died from,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in televised comments.

“We qualify what happened as a terrorist act,” she said. “The murderers will be punished.”

“Today this issue will be raised at the UN Security Council. Terrorism will not win out.”

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks at a gallery in Ankara Monday Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
The Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks at a gallery in Ankara Monday Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Karlov, 62, joined the diplomatic service in 1976. He served as Russia’s ambassador to Pyongyang in 2001-2006, and later worked as the chief of the foreign ministry’s consular department. He had served as the ambassador to Turkey since 2013.

The attack came after days of protests in Turkey over Russia’s role in Syria, although Moscow and Ankara are now working closely together to evacuate citizens from Aleppo.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said US officials were aware of reports about the shooting.

“We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source,” Kirby said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

On Tuesday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, Assad’s other key ally, are slated to hold unprecedented tripartite talks on the Syria conflict in Moscow.

A Turkish official on Monday denied Ankara had forged any secret “bargain” with Moscow over the future of Syria, despite the improving cooperation that led to the deal for evacuations from Aleppo.

Turkey and Russia saw relations plunge to their worst levels since the Cold War last year when a Turkish jet shot down a Russian war plane over Syria.

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