Andrey Karlov

22-year-old assassin of Turkey's Russian ambassador was a policeman

The attack came after days of protests in Turkey over Russia’s role in Syria.

Updated 10.10 pm

PastedImage-98043 A photographer at the gallery captured a number of images of the gunman. AP Photo / Burhan Ozbilici AP Photo / Burhan Ozbilici / Burhan Ozbilici

RUSSIA’S AMBASSADOR TO Turkey Andrey Karlov has been shot dead at the launch of an art exhibition in the capital Ankara.

The 22-year-old gunman is from a quiet region in the west of Turkey who had served with the anti-riot police for almost three years.

The man identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and “Don’t forget Aleppo” as he waved his gun around at a cultural centre in the Turkish capital.

But there has yet to be any indication Altintas, who was later “neutralised” by police”, was attracted to religious extremism or had any history of activism.

Images showed the clean-shaven man smartly dressed in a suit, tie and white shirt pull out a gun and fire at ambassador Andrei Karlov from behind as the envoy opened a Russian photography exhibition in Ankara.

He then threatened terrified spectators, yelling “Allahu Akbar” and saying that the murder was vengeance for Russia’s actions in the war-battered Syrian city of Aleppo.

Turkey Russian Ambassador The Russian Ambassador speaking at the gallery with the gunman standing behind him ahead of the shooting. Burhan Ozbilici / PA Burhan Ozbilici / PA / PA

The Russian foreign ministry has confirmed that Karlov was treated at the scene before he was pronounced dead, saying “We qualify what happened as a terrorist act”.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had been informed of the attack.

Pictures published by the Hurriyet daily showed at least two men in suits lying flat on the ground, as another man brandished a gun.

Reports said that his mother, father and sister were immediately detained for questioning in their homes in western Turkey.

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.

PastedImage-70854 AP Photo / Burhan Ozbilici AP Photo / Burhan Ozbilici / Burhan Ozbilici

The ambassador was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital, Ankara, when a man wearing a suit and tie shouted “Allahu Akbar” and fired at least eight shots, according to an AP photographer in the audience.

A video of the aftermath of the shooting shows the gunman shouting messages about Syria and Aleppo. The attacker also said some words in Russian and smashed several of the photos hung for the exhibition.

Altintas refused to surrender and remained inside the exhibition centre as clashes took place with police for 15 minutes.

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

When the ambassador was delivering a speech, a tall man wearing a suit, fired into the air first and then took aim at the ambassador.

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

The incident 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 the battered city of Aleppo.

Protesters in Turkey have held Moscow responsible for human rights violations in Aleppo.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault condemned the killing as ‘despicable’.

“We are engaged in a terrible cycle that must lead us, wherever we can, to fight terrorism in all its forms but also to work through negotiation to create the conditions for a lasting peace,” Ayrault said during a visit to the Colombian capital Bogota.

In the name of France, I must condemn with the greatest possible force this despicable act. I express my solidarity with Russia, but also Turkey, which is itself a victim of terrorism.

His Colombian counterpart, Maria Angela Holguin, also condemned the “terrorist act.”

“The world is arriving at a point where there is nowhere safe,” she said.

Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan offered his condolences to Russia in a statement released this evening:

I condemn the brutal assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey.  I offer sincere condolences to Ambassador Karlov’s family and loved ones and to the Government and People of Russia.
Diplomats play critical role in the conduct of relations between States and today is a bleak day for the diplomatic community around the world.

With reporting by © – AFP 2016 and Associated Press

Read: Evacuees “in a terrible state” after waiting overnight in freezing conditions to leave Aleppo >

Read: Gunmen attack buses sent to evacuate Syria pro-regime villages >

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