Editor’s note: An image below shows Ambassador Andrei Karlov on the ground after he was shot.
Russia’s ambassador to Turkey has died after he was shot Monday evening at an art exhibition in the capital, Ankara, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.
Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot “multiple times” by an armed assailant as he was “delivering a speech at the opening ceremony of a photo exhibit,” Turkey’s state run news agency, Anadolu, reported.
Three other people were injured in the attack, the agency reported.
Turkey’s interior minister has identified the gunman as Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old Turkish riot police officer who had been working in Ankara for about 2 1/2 years, according to Anadolu.
Special forces “neutralized” the attacker at the scene, Anadolu reported, without elaborating on what it meant by “neutralized.” An Associated Press photographer at the scene said the gunman was killed in a shootout with police.
The Associated Press photographer who witnessed the attack said the gunman wore a suit and tie and shouted “Allahu Akhbar” as he fired “at least eight shots.”
The man also shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” in Turkish, the wire service added. He then yelled: “Stand back! Stand back! Only death will take me out of here. Anyone who has a role in this oppression will die one by one.”
The assailant “smashed several of the photos hung for the exhibition. There was panic as people ran for cover,” according to the AP photographer’s account.
The attack happened at the opening of a photo exhibition, “Russia as Seen by the Turks,” according to Russia’s state-run Tass news agency.
The local Hurriyet newspaper posted an image of multiple people lying on the floor at what appears to be a gallery that it says is from the immediate aftermath of the attack.
“We qualify the events as a terrorist attack; we stay in contact with Turkish officials who have pledged that a thorough all-round investigation will be carried out. The assassinators will be punished. Today this issue will be brought up at the U.N. Security Council,” Zakharova said, according to Tass.
“The memory of Russia’s prominent diplomat Andrei [Gennadievich] Karlov will always stay in our hearts,” she added.
Russia is a close ally of the neighboring Syrian regime’s and is involved in a wide-ranging airstrike campaign in Syria.
Some Russian officials are blaming the assassination on those opposed to Russia’s actions in Syria, as NPR’s Lucian Kim reported from Moscow. “They want to drive a wedge between Moscow and Ankara at any price,” Leonid Slutsky, head of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said on state television. “It’s their strategic goal, but they won’t reach it.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attack a “provocation to destroy Turkish-Russia normalization,” Anadolu reported. He said that the two countries have launched a joint commission to investigate the homicide.
The attack took place “just a day before Turkey’s foreign minister was to travel to Moscow for talks on Syria,” as NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul.
Karlov became ambassador to Turkey in 2013 and was a career diplomat, having served since 1976, according to an official biography. He was Russia’s ambassador to North Korea and also worked at the Russian Embassy in South Korea. Prior to his post in Turkey, he served as Russia’s deputy director general for consular affairs.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby tweeted, “We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.