The Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was shot and killed Monday while visiting a photo gallery in Ankara.
Karlov was shot while giving a speech at the gallery, according to Turkish daily Hurriyet. Others at the scene fled, and reports differ on whether three or four other individuals at the gallery were also injured. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has confirmed that Karlov died as a result of the shooting, according to the AP.
First photo from scene where Russian Amb to Turkey was attacked at an Art Gallery in Ankara: (Amb. in hospital, reportedly heavily injured) pic.twitter.com/4JIy97Nkg8
— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) December 19, 2016
The Associated Press identified the shooter as Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old Ankara police officer who had been working with Ankara’s riot police squad for over two years. According to some reports on Twitter, there is currently a reporting ban on the shooting in Turkey.
Reporting ban imposed on the assassination attempt of the Russian Ambassador.
— Has Avrat (@hasavrat) December 19, 2016
After shooting the ambassador, Altintas went to the second floor of the building and had a 15-minute shootout with the police, and he was killed.
A video circulated on Twitter of the moments after the attack seems to show the gunman speaking in both Arabic and then Turkish. “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” he said, as translated by BuzzFeed News. “Until they are safe, you will not taste safety! Go back, go back, only death will take me from here. All those who have taken part in this cruelty will pay one by one!”
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) December 19, 2016
AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici was at the event and managed to capture photos of the shooting. The photos show the shooter first standing behind the ambassador, and later, as the ambassador lies on the ground, the shooter points a finger in the air while holding the gun in his other hand.
The attack comes as Syrians are being evacuated from Eastern Aleppo due to the massive scale of destruction. Last week, the U.N. said there was a “complete meltdown of humanity” in the city. The Syrian civil war is stretching into its sixth year, and nearly half a million people have died so far. The Russian air force has repeatedly bombed the city’s civilian infrastructure, including hospitals. A report in August from the Syrian Network for Human Rights found that the Russian government, which is allied with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, has been responsible for killing more civilians than ISIS.
Relations between Russia and Turkey, which has criticized Assad’s rule and crackdown in Syria and is home to nearly 3 million Syrian refugees, have been tense at times. Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek said that the shooting was an attempt to ruin these relations, which have slightly improved in the last few months. Russian, Turkish, and Iranian representatives were set to meet in Moscow to discuss the Syrian war on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the assassination a “provocation aimed at undermining the improvement and the normalization of the Russian-Turkish relations as well as at undermining the peace process in Syria, promoted by Russia, Turkey, Iran, and other countries interested in settling this conflict,” as reported on by the state-owned Russia Today.
— RT (@RT_com) December 19, 2016
In a statement Monday afternoon, President-elect Donald Trump condemned the assassination. “Today, we offer our condolences to the family and the loved ones of Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, who was assassinated by a radical Islamic terrorist,” the statement read. “The murder of an ambassador is a violation of all rules of civilized order be universally condemned.”
Reuters reports that a Turkish senior official is linking the shooting to the Gulen network, referring to a movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a former ally and now critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan who is based in the United States.
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass and State Department Spokesman John Kirby condemned the shooting on Twitter.
We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. (2 of 2)
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) December 19, 2016
Ambassador Bass: I condemn in the strongest terms the heinous attack on Ambassador Karlov tonight.
— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) December 19, 2016
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement condemning the assassination. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones, the Russian people, and with the other victims who were injured in this shooting,” the statement read. “We stand ready to offer assistance to Russia and Turkey as they investigate this despicable attack, which was also an assault on the right of all diplomats to safely and securely advance and represent their nations around the world.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the assassination on Twitter.
I condemn the killing of Russia’s amb to Turkey. My condolences to his family & Russian people. No justification for such a heinous act.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) December 19, 2016
This is a breaking news post and will be updated as more details become available.