Thursday 17 October 2019

Russian ambassador to Turkey assassinated during art gallery press conference

Warning: Graphic content in pictures
*Russian ambassador gunned down in gallery
*No immediate claim of responsibility
*Shooter was a police officer - minister
*Attacker shouted 'don't forget Aleppo'
*Three others wounded
*Turkish official links the killer to an exiled cleric but the suggestion has been denied

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks a gallery in Ankara Monday Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
The Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks a gallery in Ankara Monday Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
The Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks a gallery in Ankara Monday Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
An unnamed gunman gestures after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
A man gestures near to the body of a man at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
The Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks a gallery in Ankara Monday Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
An unnamed gunman holds the gun after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, 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)
An unnamed gunman gestures after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
A man gestures near to Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, on the ground, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Turkish police secure the area near an art gallery where the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was shot in Ankara, Turkey, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The Russian ambassador to Turkey has died after being shot by a gunman in Ankara.

Andrei Karlov was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital 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.

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

The gunman was a police officer the Turkish Interior Minister has confirmed but it is not yet clear if he was on duty at the time of the attack.

Three others were wounded in the attack but none were seriously hurt and one has already been released from hospital according to Turkish officials.

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)

President Vladimir Putin the killing was a provocation to try to spoil Russia-Turkey ties and derail Moscow's attempts to find, with Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis.

In televised comments, Putin, speaking at a special meeting in the Kremlin, ordered security at Russian embassies around the world to be stepped up and said he wanted to know who had "directed" the gunman's hand.

A Turkish security official said Ankara saw "very strong signs" the gunman was a follower of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed for orchestrating a failed coup in July.

A representative of cleric Fethullah Gulen, Alp Aslandogan, denied any link and said the exiled cleric condemned the murder as a "heinous act".

The Turkish official, who declined to be identified, said the current investigation was focused on the gunman's links to the network of Gulen's followers, which the government calls the "Gulenist Terrorist Organisation" or "FETO".

The government says Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999, created a "parallel network" in the police, military, judiciary and civil service aimed at overthrowing the state. Gulen denies this.

An unnamed gunman holds the gun after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
An unnamed gunman holds the gun after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

President Tayyip Erdogan identified the attacker, who was later killed by security forces, as a member of the Ankara riot police who had spent 2-1/2 years on the force.

"The people he lived with before school were detained over FETO. It was determined that the people with whom he graduated from school were from a FETO team," the senior security official said of the attacker.

"Information was obtained to the effect that people who helped him get into school were from FETO. There are very strong signs that the person who carried out this attack was from FETO. The investigation is currently focused totally on this."

The official also cited the fact that the attacker had taken July 15-17 as holiday. The government may argue the timing of his holiday demonstrated foreknowledge of the July 15 coup.

An unnamed gunman gestures after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
An unnamed gunman gestures after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Gulen adviser Aslandogan, who advises Gulen on media issues, said the allegations by the Turkish official were "laughable" and intended to cover up for lax security.

"Mr. Gulen categorically condemns this heinous act," he told Reuters.

Solidarity

Meanwhile, details of a call between the Turkish and Russian president have also emerged.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he had agreed in a telephone call with Russia's Vladimir Putin that their cooperation and solidarity in fighting terrorism should be even stronger after the killing of the Russian ambassador in Turkey.

Erdogan also called the killing a clear provocation aimed at damaging relations between Turkey and Russia at a time of normalisation.

Earlier, Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed the ambassador's death in a live televised statement.

Turkish police fatally shot the gunman, NTV reported.

The attacker also smashed several of the photos which were part of the exhibition.

There was panic as people ran for cover after the shots were fired, with three other people reportedly wounded in the attack.

Ms Zakharova said Mr Karlov was shot "when an unidentified assailant opened chaotic gunfire during a public event in Ankara".

She later confirmed the ambassador had died, adding that Russia was in contact with Turkish officials about the incident.

Local sources have said the man was an off-duty police officer based in the Turkish capital.

President Erdogan has spoken with phone with Putin in the aftermath of the attack it has emerged.

Turkey will not allow Monday's shooting of Russia's ambassador to Ankara to "cast a shadow" over Turkish-Russian friendship, the Turkey's foreign ministry said on Monday, expressing deep sadness and condemning the "lowly terrorist attack".

The statement, paying tribute to the ambassador as being a well respected diplomat, said the attacker had been "neutralised" and that those responsible for the attack would be brought to justice

Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek told reporters outside the exhibition centre that the "heinous" attack had aimed to disrupt newly-re-established relations between Turkey and Russi

US state department spokesman John Kirby said US officials are aware of reports about the shooting.

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

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry  has said America stands ready to help Turkey investigate the attack.

"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," he said.

Mr Karlov, 62, joined the diplomatic service in 1976, and went on to serve as Russia's ambassador to Pyongyang from 2001-2006.

He later worked as the chief of the foreign ministry's consular department, and had been Russia's ambassador to Turkey since 2013.

It was reported that t he gunman shouted in Turkish ahead of the shooting: "Don't forget Aleppo. Don't forget Syria."

The man 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."

More to follow...

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