Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was shot dead in front of a crowd at a posh art gallery in the capital Ankara as the angry gunmen screamed “don’t forget Aleppo”. Police later killed the assailant on Monday night, Turkish station NTV reported.
The assailant was a 22-year-old off-duty police officer who worked in Turkey’s capital, said Ankara’s Mayor Melih Gokcek. After the initial shot, the attacker approached Karlov as he lay on the ground and shot him at least one more time at close range, according to an AP photographer at the scene. He also smashed several of the framed photos on exhibition, but later let the stunned guests out of the venue, according to local media. The spectacle of Karlov’s assassination by a member of the Turkish security forces at a photography exhibit meant to highlight Russian culture reinforced the sense of unease over the region’s conflict and complex web of alliances and relationships.
Several media outlets reported a gunfight later ensued after Karlov was shot. Local broadcaster NTV television said at least three people were wounded and were taken to the hospital. Mayor Gokcek told reporters outside the exhibition centre the “heinous” attack was aimed at disrupting newly re-established relations between Turkey and Russia. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone about Monday’s attack. “On behalf of my country and my people I once again extend my condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the friendly Russian people,” said Erdogan.
‘Don’t forget Aleppo’
The assailant referenced the situation in Aleppo after he shot the ambassador in the back. “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria,” the attacker said in Turkish after gunning down the ambassador, as seen on a video shared by Turkish media from the scene. “Whoever took part in this cruelty will pay the price, one by one… Only death will take me from here,” the man said while holding a pistol. He then continued in Arabic, saying: “We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad.” Diego Cupolo, a photojournalist in Ankara, told Al Jazeera there were about 100 armed soldiers in camouflage and police officers at the scene, along with armoured fighting vehicles.