The Russian ambassador to Turkey was tonight shot dead by an off-duty Turkish police officer at an art gallery in Ankara in an apparent ...

The Russian ambassador to Turkey was tonight shot dead by an off-duty Turkish police officer at an art gallery in Ankara in an apparent ‘revenge’ attack at the conflict in Syria.

Ambassador Andrei Karlov, 62, was repeatedly shot in the back at close range by a gunman shouting: ‘Allahu Akbar (God is Great). We die in Aleppo, you die here!’ He also screamed: ‘Only death will take me out of here.’

The gunman has been identified as Mevl├╝t Mert Altintas, 22, a member of Ankara’s police riot squad, fired into the air before taking aim at the ambassador. Three others were also injured, according to local media.

Shocking footage of the attack shows Altintas, dressed in a suit and tie, pacing the gallery while brandishing a gun in one hand. The killer was shot dead after a 15-minute standoff with special forces police.

Putin has declared the assassination a ‘provocation’ while a Kremlin spokeswoman called it a ‘terror attack’. Turkey’s foreign minister tonight said the two countries would work together to investigate the killing.

The assassination follows days of protests in Turkey over Russia’s role in Syria and comes just one day before the Russians are due to host Turkey and Iran’s foreign ministers for talks on the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo.

The ambassador was attending an art exhibition called ‘Russia as seen by Turks’ when Altintas entered the gallery – around 100 yards from the US embassy – by allegedly showing his police officer badge.

The gunman, who had been a policeman for two-and-a-half years, was seen standing calmly behind Mr Karlov before the attack. As Mr Karlov lay dying on the floor, Altintas shot him at least once more at close range.

The horrific scene was filmed by journalists covering the opening. Footage shows Altintas shouting ‘Allahu akbar [God is great]’ as Mr Karlov falls to the ground.

In Arabic, Altintas can be heard saying: ‘We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad for jihad.’

According to local media, his words are similar to the unofficial anthem of Al Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda.

In Turkish, Altintas adds: ‘Don’t forget about Aleppo. Don’t forget about Syria. As long as our lands are not safe, you will not taste safety … Only death will take me out of here. Anyone who has a role in this oppression, they will all die one by one.’

Some reports claimed he said words to the effect of: ‘We made an oath to die in martyrdom … it is revenge for Syria and Aleppo … until they are safe, you will not taste safety.’

When the violence erupted in the exhibition, Altintas smashed several of the framed photos on the wall as others ran for cover.

Witness Hasim Kilic, a journalist for Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, told AFP: ‘It happened during the opening of an exhibition. 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.


Photographer Burhan Ozbilic was covering the exhibition for the Associated Press. He recounts the chaos of the scene:

‘The event was routine enough – the opening of an exhibit of photographs of Russia – and when a man on stage pulled out a gun I thought it was a theatrical flourish.

‘It was anything but. Moments later the Russian ambassador was sprawled on the floor and the attacker was waving his gun at the rest of us, shouting slogans.

‘He shot the ambassador at least once more at close range and smashed some of the framed photos on the wall. In all there were at least eight shots.

‘Guests ran for cover, hiding behind columns and under tables. I composed myself enough to shoot pictures.’

An unnamed witness added to news website Diken: ‘There was a single attacker. He was wearing a suit. He said to the Russian ambassador: “I’m not going to get out of here alive. And neither are you.”

‘Then he took aim straight at him. We all ran out. The ambassador was motionless on the ground.’

Photographer Burhan Ozbilici, who was covering the exhibition, said: ‘The Russian ambassador was sprawled on the floor and the attacker was waving his gun at the rest of us, shouting slogans.

‘He shot the ambassador at least once more at close range and smashed some of the framed photos … In all there were at least eight shots. Guests ran for cover, hiding behind columns and under tables.’

President Vladimir Putin had been due to see a play at the Maly Theatre in Moscow, but pulled out after learning of Mr Karlov’s death.

On Monday night he said that 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.

Turkey’s foreign minister said common sense was prevailing in both Russia and Turkey and the two countries would work together to investigate.

Mevlut Cavusgolu was speaking in Moscow, where he was due to meet his Russian and Iranian counterparts to discuss the situation in Syria. In live TV comments, he praised the Russian ambassador as a ‘great man’ and a ‘great diplomat’.

Confirming Mr Karlov had been fatally wounded, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said ‘terrorism will not win’.

Maria Zakharova said: ‘We characterise what happened as an act of terrorism. We stay in touch with Turkish officials who assured that the most thorough comprehensive investigation. The murderers will be punished.

‘Today the same issue will be raised before UN Security Council. Terrorism will not pass. We will be fighting it strongly.


The secret services of a NATO country is ‘highly likely’ to have been behind the assassination of ambassador Andrei Karlov, claimed a top ally of Vladimor Putin.

Senior senator Frantz Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the Russian upper chamber’s defence and security committee, said: ‘It was a planned action.

‘Everyone knew that he was going to attend this photo exhibition.

‘It can be ISIS, or the Kurdish army which tries to hurt Erdogan.

‘But may be – and it is highly likely – that representatives of foreign NATO secrets services are behind it.

‘What has happened is a true provocation, a challenge.

‘It is a challenge for Russia.’

The senator is a member of the ruling council of United Russia party, Putin’s vehicle of power.

The Russian Foreign Ministry vowed that terrorism would not win after the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey.

Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: ‘We call this event an act of terror.

‘Terrorism will not win.

‘We will strongly fight it.’

‘The memory of an outstanding Russian diplomat, a man who did a lot to fight terrorism – Andrei Gennadyevich Karlov – will stay in our hearts forever.’

Russian and Turkish foreign and defence ministers had been due to meet in Moscow today to discuss Syria.

Moscow and Ankara are now working closely together to evacuate citizens from Aleppo but the Russian bombing of the city and the civilian casualties have enraged many Turks and also Syrian refugees in the country.

Last week protests were held outside the Russian Embassy in Ankara and Russia’s Consulate General in Istanbul over Russian involvement in the crisis.

Demonstrators chanted slogans against Russia, Iran and China for deliberately supporting the Assad regime.

They claimed that Russian forces cooperated with Assad to slaughter civilians in war-stricken Aleppo and using chemical weapons.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said: ‘We qualify what happened as a terrorist act. The murderers will be punished … today this issue will be raised at the UN Security Council. Terrorism will not win out.’

Elena Panina, Russian MP on the international relations committee, said: ‘I believe this is a provocation to disrupt improved dialogue between Russia and Turkey.’ Ibrahim Melih Gokcek, Ankara’s mayor, described the attack as ‘heinous’.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter: ‘Shocked to hear of despicable murder of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey. My thoughts are with his family. I condemn this cowardly attack.’

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned what he called a ‘senseless act of terror’, saying ‘there can be no justification’.

He offered ‘deepest condolences to the Russian delegation’.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric reiterated the U.N.’s condemnation and said ‘we very much hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice’.

He said Ban ‘is following the unfolding situation closely and wishes the other people who were reportedly injured in the attack a speedy and full recovery’.

Tonight Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky appeared to blame Britain, claiming the assassination was intended to stop an upcoming visit by Turkish president Erdogan to Moscow to seal closer ties with Putin.

He said: ‘The West is trying to embroil us. All conflicts were inspired by Britain.


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