A well-dressed Turkish police officer opened fire at an art event in Ankara on Monday, killing the Russian ambassador to Turkey and shouting “God is great” as panicked witnesses scrambled for cover.
Andrei Karlov was shot multiple times while making a speech at the opening of a photo exhibit entitled, Russia through the Eyes of Turks. Three other people were wounded in the attack, Turkish authorities said.
Police shot and killed the gunman, identified as 22-year-old police officer Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova described the attack as an “act of terrorism.”
“This is a tragic day in the history of Russian diplomacy,” Zahharova said in announcing Karlov’s death.
The attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.” He also shouted other phrases, mostly in Turkish, according to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria! As long as our brothers are not safe, you will not enjoy safety. … Whoever has a share in this oppression will pay for it one-by-one. … Only death will take me away from here…”
Russia and Turkey have been key players in Syria’s civil war that has raged for almost six years. Russia has provided support for Syrian troops that bombarded rebel-held sections of Aleppo for months, creating a humanitarian crisis in the war-torn city. Both nations in recent days have worked on a plan to allow for evacuation of rebel neighborhoods.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Altıntaş had spent more than two years with a riot police unit in Ankara.
Chilling photographs from the scene show Karlov lying on the ground while the gunman — dressed in a suit, gun drawn — stands over him. Moments later the killer was fatally shot by Turkish special forces.
“We are currently in contact with Turkish authorities who are assuring us that a thorough, comprehensive investigation will be conducted.” Zakharova said.
Karlov, 62, was a longtime diplomat dating back to Soviet days. He began his career in 1976, and spent most of the next quarter century representing his country in North Korea or South Korea. He was appointed ambassador to Turkey in 2013.
The White House and State Department condemned the attack and extended thoughts and prayers to Karlov’s family, the Russian government and the Russian people.
“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,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Secretary of State John Kerry offered U.S. assistance to Russia and Turkey “as they investigate this 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.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also extended condolences, adding there was “no justification for such a heinous act.”