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The Shooting of the Russian Ambassador in Turkey

Russian and Turkish authorities are investigating the fatal shooting of an ambassador by an off-duty Turkish police officer.


Russian and Turkish authorities are investigating the shooting death of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey by an off-duty Turkish police officer. Andrey Karlov, who had served in the job since 2013, was delivering a speech at a photo exhibition in Ankara on Monday when a man shot him in apparent protest of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. The gunman, identified as 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, was later shot and killed by police.

We’re following the news of the assassination here. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).


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Turkish Police Question Shooter's Family

Turkish police stand guard outside the Russian embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on December 20, 2016. (Umit Bektas / Reuters)

Turkish police on Monday questioned the family of the gunman, 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, who was shot and killed by police after his attack, the BBC reported Tuesday. Altintas was a member of Ankara’s riot police squad, but was not on duty at the time of the shooting. More from the BBC, citing Turkey’s interior minister:

He said Altintas was born on 24 June 1994 in in the town of Soke in quiet, conservative Aydin province in western Turkey, and attended police college in the coastal city of Izmir to the north.

He had been working in Ankara's riot police department for two-and-a-half years but was apparently on leave at the time of his attack.

… Altintas shaved and put on a suit and tie in a nearby hotel he was staying at prior to Monday's attack.

He set off a metal detector on entering the exhibition, but was waved through after showing his official police ID.

After shooting the ambassador, Altintas waved and pointed his gun at people inside the gallery, and shouted in Arabic and Turkish. He yelled “Allahu Akbar” several times, and said, “Don't forget about Syria, don’t forget about Aleppo. All those who participate in this tyranny will be held accountable.” The shooting came after days of protests in Turkey against Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war and the bombardment of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Altintas fired 11 times, nine at the ambassador and twice in the air, according to the BBC. Three others were injured in the attack.

Slain Ambassador's Body Flown to Moscow

Umit Bektas / Reuters

The body of Andrey Karlov was transported from Turkey to Russia Tuesday after a ceremony at the Esenboga airport in Ankara. Karlov’s coffin, draped in the Russian flag, was carried by soldiers on the tarmac. Photos from the ceremony showed his wife, Marina, touching the top of the coffin before it was placed on a plane bound for Moscow.

Trump Blames Turkey Attack on 'Radical Islamic Terrorist'

President-elect Donald Trump blamed the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey on “a radical Islamic terrorist.”

His statement read in full:

Today we offer our condolences to the family and loved ones of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, who was assassinated by a radical Islamic terrorist. The murder of an ambassador is a violation of all rules of civilized order and must be universally condemned.

The shooter, who was identified as an Ankara police officer, yelled, “We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad,” in Arabic at the shooting. Statements from the White House and other countries, though, did not mention Islam. The shooter was killed by police in a standoff.

Leaders in Russia, Turkey, U.S. Condemn Shooting

The presidents of Russia and Turkey said Thursday the fatal shooting of the Russian ambassador to Turkey was a “provocation” intended to hurt the two country’s ties, the AP reports.

In televised remarks, Vladimir Putin described the shooting as a “provocation aimed at derailing Russia-Turkey ties and the peace process in Syria.” Russia supports the Assad government in the Syrian civil war. Russia and Turkey are engaged in talks over the evacuation of civilians from the Syrian city of Aleppo, which has been under constant bombardment for months.

In a video message aired on Turkish TV channels, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the shooting was “a provocation to damage the normalization process of Turkish-Russian relations.”

The White House offered its support to both countries in a statement Thursday. “This heinous attack on a member of the diplomatic corps is unacceptable, and we stand united with Russia and Turkey in our determination to confront terrorism in all of its forms,” said a National Security Council spokesman.

Shooting Follows Days of Turkish Protests Over Syrian War

Murad Sezer / Reuters

The shooting of the Russian ambassador comes after a week of protests in Turkey against Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. On Saturday, crowds gathered near Turkey’s border with Syria chanted, “Murderer Russia, get out of Syria!” and demanded for all sides to allow humanitarian workers access to the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo. The evacuation of thousands of civilians in Aleppo began last week, after the Syrian government wrested control of most of the city from rebel groups, which have held it for four years. The Syrian government, with support from Russia, has bombed all of the city’s hospitals, and residents are low on food and other basic supplies. Humanitarian groups have pleaded to allow for short breaks in the fighting so residents can escape. About 4,500 people were evacuated Monday, bringing the total since last week to 12,000.

Who Was the Gunman?

AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici was at the photo gallery Monday when gunfire broke out. He continued taking photos after Andrey Karlov was struck and capturing the assailant, who brandished his gun and shouted about the Syrian conflict. “Don’t forget Syria!” he can be heard saying. The gunman was later fatally shot by police. He has not been publicly identified. The AP reports he was a policeman, citing Turkey’s interior ministry.

Here’s one of the photos from Ozbilici:

Burhan Ozbilici / AP

Andrey Karlov Worked in Diplomacy for 40 Years

Osman Orsal / Reuters

Andrey Karlov served as Moscow’s ambassador to Ankara since July 2013, but his diplomatic career spanned four decades. The 62-year-old joined the diplomatic service in 1976, serving in Russia’s embassies in both Pyongyang and Seoul. Karlov served as the Russian ambassador to North Korea between 2001 and 2006 before returning to Moscow to head the foreign ministry’s consular affairs department in 2007. He is survived by his wife and son.

U.S. Warns American Citizens in Ankara

The U.S. State Department has warned U.S. residents to stay away from Ankara’s embassies.

Demonstrations are expected to take place in the area on Tuesday, the day of a scheduled meeting of defense and foreign ministers from Russia, Turkey, and Iran to discuss the Syrian conflict.

Andrey Karlov Has Died, Russian Officials Say

Andrey Karlov has died of wounds sustained during the shooting in Ankara, the AP reports, citing a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman.

What Happened in the Gallery in Ankara?

Andrey Karlov was delivering a speech at the opening of a photo exhibition in Ankara on Monday when shots rang out. Video footage from the speech and published by Russian media shows the ambassador falling down after being struck. A man dressed in a black suit appears in the frame, holding a gun and shouting. The gunman was shot and killed by police, according to Turkish broadcaster NTV. Karlov was transported to the hospital.

Here’s more on the scene from the AP, according to one of their photographers, who was there:

The ambassador, Andrei Karlov, was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital, Ankara, 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 attacker also said some words in Russian and smashed several of the photos hung for the exhibition.