by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
ANKARA, Turkey — An off-duty Turkish police officer shot and killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey while shouting “don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” in an attack that appeared to be backlash against the Russian military’s involvement in Syria.
The attack on the ambassador, Andrei Karlov, occurred in the capital city of Ankara on the evening of December 19th. Mr. Karlov was shot while delivering a speech at the opening of an art exhibition entitled “Russia Through Turks’ Eyes” at Cagdas Sanat Merkezi. Footage from the scene showed a man dressed in a suit and tie standing calmly behind the ambassador. He then pulled out a gun, and fired eight shots. Mr. Karlov was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
While shooting the ambassador, the man shouted in Arabic: “Allahu akbar! Those who pledged allegiance to Muhammad for jihad!” He then continued shouting 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.”
After the attack, which has been described as an “embarrassing security failure,” Turkish special forces surrounded the gallery, and killed the attacker during a shootout. The Turkish Interior Ministry identified the shooter as 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, a police officer in Ankara’s riot police squad. Three others were also injured by Mr. Altintas in the incident.
The assassination took place days after Turkish protests over Russia’s support for the Syrian government, and Russia’s role in the killings and destruction in Aleppo. As a precaution, all Russian tourists in Turkey had been advised against leaving their hotel rooms or visiting public places. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced that Turkey would increase security measures around Russian diplomatic buildings and people.
The Turkish Interior Minister, Mr. Suleyman Soylu, offered his condolences to the Russian federation, while Mr. Erdogan called the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to brief him on the attack. During their conversation, Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Putin agreed to cooperate in investigating the assassination and combating terrorism.
Mr. Putin called the killing a “provocation” aimed at sabotaging strengthening ties between Russia and Turkey. He further stated that the attack was an attempt at disrupting Russia’s peace advancement in Syria undertaken with Turkey and Iran.
Russia’s head of the foreign relations committee, Mr. Konstantin Kosachev, stated that the repercussions of the attack would depend on the details of the incident. He noted that while “it could have been a planned terrorist attack by extremists,” it could also have been “the work of a lone maniac.” He indicated that the future of Russia’s relations with Turkey would depend on the motives behind the attack.
The attack on Mr. Karlov cast doubt upon the ongoing evacuation attempts for civilians in Aleppo, which was secured by Russia and Turkey. Mr. Karlov had participated in the discussions with Turkey which had led to the evacuation deal.
For more information, please see: