Russian ambassador to Turkey shot dead

An unnamed gunman gestures after shooting Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici
An unnamed gunman gestures after shooting Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici
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A gunman in a suit and tie shouted slogans about Syria’s civil war after he killed Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in front of stunned onlookers at a photo exhibition in the Turkish capital yesterday, according to a photographer who witnessed the shooting.

Police later killed the assailant, who has been named as policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas.

Interior minister Suleyman Soylu said he had worked for the police riot squad in Ankara for the past two-and-a-half years. Ambassador Andrei Karlov, 62, was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in Ankara when the man fired at least eight shots, according to the photographer in the audience.

“Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” the gunman shouted in Turkish, referring to the Syrian city where Russian bombardments have helped drive rebels from areas they had occupied for years during the war.

He also shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great” and continued in Arabic: “We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad.”

The gunman approached Karlov as he lay on the ground and shot him at least one more time at close range, according to witnesses. The attacker also smashed several of the framed photos hung for the exhibition.

There was panic as people ran for cover. Three other people were wounded in the attack, NTV said.

The attack comes a day before a meeting of Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign and defence ministers in Moscow to discuss Syria. Russia and Iran have backed Syrian president Bashar Assad throughout the nearly six-year conflict, while Turkey has supported Assad’s foes.

Karlov was shot “when an unidentified assailant opened chaotic gunfire during a public event in Ankara”, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

She said Russia was in contact with Turkish officials about the incident.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said officials were aware of reports about the shooting. “We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source,” Kirby said. The UN also condemned the attack.

“There can be no justification for an attack on an ambassador and we hope the perpetrators will be brought to justice,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.