While fulfilling the ceremonial duties at an art exhibition opening in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday afternoon, Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was shot dead by a lone gunman.
Russian state media reported Karlov died at the gallery.
“This is a tragic day in the history of Russian diplomacy. Today, Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov died after being shot at during a public event in Ankara,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Monday evening.
Although details related to the shooting remain imprecise, it is known the gunman entered the gallery after identifying himself as a police officer and he was shot dead at the scene by Turkish police.
Turkish authorities have confirmed the gunman was indeed a Turkish police officer, but have not released his name.
According to witnesses, the gunman, dressed in a black suit and tie, stood behind Karlov as the ambassador began with his remarks celebrating the opening of an exhibit observing the Turkish view of Russia.
As Karlov continued with his comments, the gunman opened fire and shouted “Aleppo,” “Allahu Akbar” and “revenge.”
Similarly, following the shooting, witnesses reported the man began shouting at length in Arabic:
“We made an oath to die in martyrdom. . . . it is revenge for Syria and Aleppo. Until they are safe, you will not taste safety. Get back, only death will take me from here.”
Authorities suspect his language resembles words often associated with the official chant of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly al-Nusra Front, a group which is the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
Karlov’s assassination comes at a moment of delicate relations between Ankara and the Kremlin: Shortly after the Russians intervened in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime, Turkish warplanes downed a Russian aircraft during a mission over the skies of Syria.
Following a period of frost, the two nations renewed their relationship and have found common ground for cooperation over the Syrian civil war.
Russia has been criticized for its role in wreaking devastation in Aleppo. Its air force has been engaged in a sustained air campaign, which humanitarian groups have condemned as reckless and claiming the lives of countless Syrian civilians.
Karlov’s death been received with condemnation around the world, including in Russia. Spokeswoman Zakharova labeled the assassination “a terrorist act,” and said the Kremlin will continue to “fight against it decisively.”
[RT News] [Reuters] [GoPro CNJ] [Photo courtesy AP via Hindustan Times]