Sunday 13 October 2019

Russian diplomat killed by assassin in Ankara gallery

Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, lying on the floor after being shot by a gunman during an attack during a public event in Ankara. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, lying on the floor after being shot by a gunman during an attack during a public event in Ankara. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Gordon Rayner

Russia's ambassador to Turkey was shot dead yesterday by an assassin who told him: "We die in Aleppo, you die here."

The gunman - an off-duty policeman - opened fire at an art gallery in Ankara as Andrey Karlov was making a speech, then stood triumphantly over his body shouting "revenge for Syria and Aleppo".

Photographs taken by an Associated Press photographer who kept his finger on the shutter while others dived for cover captured the aftermath of a murder which Russia described as a "terrorist act".

The incident followed days of protests in Turkey against Russia's support for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and came on the eve of talks today in Moscow about the future of Syria involving Russia, Iran and Turkey. The talks are still planned to go ahead.

People in the gallery react after the shooting. Photo: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici
People in the gallery react after the shooting. Photo: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

At 7pm local time yesterday Mr Karlov, the guest of honour, took to the lectern to make a speech at the launch of an exhibition of photography about Russia, attended by around 100 guests.

He was five minutes into it when a smartly dressed Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old riot squad police officer, took up position behind him and opened fire, shooting him several times in the back.

He shouted "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - as he pulled the trigger.

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Mr Karlov (62) was knocked flat on his back by the bullets, his glasses flying off and skittering across the floor.

A television camera that was still running after its operator had fled, recorded Altintas switching between Arabic and Turkish as he ranted: "Don't forget about Syria, don't forget about Aleppo. All those who participate in this tyranny will be held accountable.

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov. Photo: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici
Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov. Photo: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

"In the name of God, you killed innocent people. We will not permit you to do these things. We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad.

"We made an oath to die in martyrdom ... it is revenge for Syria and Aleppo. Until they are safe, you will not taste safety."

Witnesses said he shot Mr Karlov one or two times more as he lay dying on the floor.

It was unclear whether Altintas, who has been based in Ankara for two years, was inspired by Isil or the rebels who have been crushed in Aleppo after four years of war.

Reports in Turkey suggested that he recited a message in Arabic similar to a phrase associated with the rebel group al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qa'ida. He was shot dead by police in a shoot-out that lasted 15 minutes. Three other people were wounded. Mr Karlov was taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

The Turkish foreign ministry insisted that it would not allow the murder to "cast a shadow" over Turkey's improving relations with Russia. Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, entered a diplomatic crisis when the Turkish air force shot down a Russian jet in November 2015. But in recent months Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Erdogan have held talks about a ceasefire in Syria.

Irish Independent

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