ANKARA, TURKEY—Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov was shot and killed on Monday, December 19 at a well-known art exhibition in Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi in Ankara, Turkey. The suspect responsible has been identified as Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas. The ambassador died of his injuries at Guven Hospital in Ankara. Moscow is calling the shooting a “terrorist act.”
The attack occurred the day before a potentially pivotal meeting between the Russian, Iranian, and Turkish foreign ministers. The meeting was meant to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria. Prior to the shooting, days of protests ensued throughout Turkey over the role Russia has played in Syria, although Ankara and Moscow are now working on major evacuations in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
Altintas, described as wearing a black suit and tie, was videoed during the attack. He is seen waving a pistol and shouting in Arabic, “God is great! Those who pledged allegiance to Muhammad for jihad. God is great!” He then shouted in Turkish, “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria! Step back! Step back! Only death can take me from here.”
Hasim Kilic, a Turkish photographer and witness to the shooting indicated that Altintas fired seven shots at the ambassador, four while the ambassador stood and three after he fell to the ground, as the other witnesses and fellow exhibition guests, screamed and hid.
Turkish officials said Altintas was killed after a shootout with Turkish Special Forces. Officials are still investigating the nature of the shooting to determine if the suspect is connected to the Islamic State or Syria’s affiliate to Al Qaeda.
The United States, despite recent grievances with Russia over the Syrian conflict, condemned the ambassador’s assassination. Secretary of State John Kerry called the incident a “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.”
Condolences from Russia’s critics were offered. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations said he was “appalled by this senseless act of terror.”
“No justification for such a heinous act,” said Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO via Twitter.
Just after the assassination, a group of protesters gathered outside the Russian Consulate in Istanbul. Two men laid flat on the road, covered with bloody sheets and with the Syrian flag. Lit candles surrounded the men. The display was meant to represent the Aleppo killings.
Syrian activist Mohammed al-Shibli, a display participant, said he “felt extreme happiness” when he heard of the assassination. “This is the first step in getting justice for the Syrian people. The ambassador is not innocent. He represents the foreign policy of his murderous state and thus he is a murderer, as well. Now we are waiting for revenge against everyone who shed blood in Syria.”