The Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was gunned down yesterday while attending a photo exhibit in Ankara, Turkey. The shooter, who was later identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas, apparently shot Karlov to protest Russian involvement in the bombing of Aleppo.
Witnesses heard Altintas speaking in Arabic, saying “We are the ones who pledged allegiance to Muhammad, to wage jihad,” and recall him shouting “Allahu akbar!” and “Don’t forget Aleppo!” as he fired his weapon.
After Altintas shot Karlov, he shouted the following in Turkish.
“Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.”
The gunman was killed by Turkish Special Forces who were responding to the scene.
Russia swiftly decried the act, calling it an act of terrorism. In a statement released by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, they said that Karlov was declared dead after being transported to a nearby hospital.
The shooter was an off-duty police officer who had no previous ties to Islamic fundamentalist groups. His father, mother, sister and two uncles were later taken in for questioning in Aydin, a province in the western portion of Turkey. His roommate was also questioned about the attack.
Putin went on record saying, “There can only be one response – stepping up the fight against terrorism. The bandits will feel this happening.”
The attack was likely an attempt to spoil the newly-warming diplomatic relationship between Turkey and Russia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent out a tweet that said that the attack was an attempt to disrupt the newly established relationship.
President Erdoğan: "This attack is a provocation aimed at disrupting our relations. I condemn it vehemently."
— Turkish Presidency (@trpresidency) December 19, 2016
Andrei Karlov’s presence in Ankara was a step in the new relationship between the two countries that had quickly chilled after a dispute last year. A Russian plane was shot down by on November 24, 2015, by a Turkish F-16 after being repeatedly warned that it was in Turkish airspace. In retaliation, Russia cut off most of its economic ties to Turkey. That the two countries are on opposite sides of the conflict in Syria hasn’t helped the situation at all.
It is unknown what effect the assassination will have on the meeting that was scheduled to happen today in Moscow regarding the situation in Syria. Numerous officials from Turkey, Russia, and Iran were to be in attendance, to bring resolution to the war-torn streets of Aleppo and other besieged cities in Syria. This meeting is significant in its exclusion of Western powers, namely the United States, as well as excluding the Gulf States who are the key sponsors of Syrian opposition forces.
The rest of the world joined in their universal condemnation of the assassination.
United States President Donald Trump issued a statement, saying the following.
“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.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement where he said that “The Secretary-General is appalled by this senseless act of terror and emphasizes that there can be no justification for the targeting of diplomatic personnel and civilians.”
The US State Department and the White House also responded to the attack, condemning the attack as unacceptable.
Russia is currently sending a team of investigators to Turkey to determine whether Altintas was working alone or as part of a more widely orchestrated movement. Putin said that it was important to know who directed Altintas’s hand to know what steps to take.
[Featured Image by Burhan Ozbilici/AP Images]