The attacker who assassinated the Russian ambassador to Turkey in Ankara has been identified by the country’s interior minister as a police officer, the Associated Press reports.
The officer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, shot and killed 62-year-old Ambassador Andrey Karlov while he was giving a speech Monday night at an art gallery opening, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters.
Altintas was later “neutralized,” authorities said.
Altintas made references to the situation in Aleppo, Syria, after the shooting, CNN reports.
While Altintas was not on duty, he used his police identification badge to enter the gallery with a gun, Hurriyet Daily News reports.
A witness told Voice of America that metal detectors were used at the entrance to the gallery, but there was no increased security because of the ambassador’s presence.
Russian authorities have called the shooting an act of terrorism. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have spoken, and Putin suggested a joint commission to investigate the assassination, a proposal Erdogan accepted, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
“This attack is a provocation aimed at disrupting our relations. I condemn it vehemently,” Erdogan said in a statement.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Video Shows Him Shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ & About Aleppo After the Shooting
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) December 19, 2016
Video of the shooting, which you can watch above, shows the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, giving his speech in the capital city of Ankara when gunfire erupts. Karlov reacts to being shot and then falls to the ground. The camera then switches to the accused attacker, Mert Altintas, who can be seen firing into the air and then yelling.
According to CNN, the gunman screamed in Arabic, “Allahu akbar (God is great),” before saying in Turkish, “Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”
Altintas allowed the others in attendance at the gallery to leave, saying he was not trying to harm them, and was there to die, witnesses said.
“Only death will remove me from here. Everyone who has taken part in this oppression will one by one pay for it,” he said, according to CNN.
Hurriyet Daily News reporter Hasim Kilic, who was at the gallery, told AFP what he saw:
It happened during the opening of an exhibition. When the ambassador was delivering a speech, a tall man wearing a suit, fired into the air first and then took aim at the ambassador. He said something about Aleppo and ‘revenge’. He ordered the civilians to leave the room. When people were fleeing, he fired again.
Russian officials confirmed that Karlov was killed in the attack.
“We regard this as a terrorist act,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Reuters. “Terrorism will not win and we will fight against it decisively.”
The shooting occurred at the Contemporary Arts Gallery in Ankara’s central Cankaya district, according to Anadolu, the Turkish state-run media agency.
Karlov was speaking at the opening of a photo exhibit called “Russia as seen by Turks.”
The shooting also came just hours before an apparent terror attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany. At least 9 people were killed and as many as 50 wounded when a truck plowed into the crowd at the market, police say.
ISIS, which has in the past called for attacks using trucks similar to one in Nice, France, that killed 84 people, has not claimed responsibility for the Berlin attack.
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2. He Was Killed During a Gunfight With Security Forces
Mert Altintas was later killed during a gunfight with security forces, authorities told Anadolu, the Turkish state-run media agency. The operation to stop Altintas was led by special forces, Anadolu reports. He was shot about 15 minutes after the initial attack.
A graphic photo, which you can see above, shows his body after he was killed at the Ankara art gallery.
Altintas was off duty at the time of the attack, Reuters reports.
“We are currently in contact with Turkish authorities, who are assuring us that a thorough, comprehensive investigation will be conducted,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in remarks broadcast on Russian television, according to CNN. “Murderers will be punished. Terrorism won’t sustain. We’ll fight it.”
3. He Became a Police Officer in 2014 & Was Serving as a Member of a Special Operations Force
Altintas became a police officer in 2014, according to a police yearbook photo posted on Twitter by Turkish media.
He was a member of the Ankara police special operations force, according to local media.
Police were searching the gunman’s home Monday night.
He was born in Soke in Turkey’s Aydin province.
4. The Attack Was Intended to Disrupt Relations Between Russia & Turkey, Ankara’s Mayor Says
Ankara’s mayor, Melih Gokcek, said the attack was aimed at disrupting relations between Russia and Turkey, Reuters reports.
The shooting comes as diplomats from Turkey, Russia and Iran plan to meet to discuss the situation in Aleppo, Syria. The meeting is still planned to go on.
Russia is allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is an opponent of Assad and has backed rebel forces, according to Reuters. Russian forces backed Assad in Aleppo, including through air strikes.
But, according to CNN, relations between Turkey and Russia had improved recently, including as they worked together in the cease fire and evacuations of Aleppo’s citizens.
The two countries had been at a low point after a Russian jet was shot down by Turkish forces near the Syrian border in November 2015. According to CNN, Russia placed several sanctions on Turkey after the jet incident, in which a pilot was killed, including banning Russian tourists from traveling to Turkey.
But in June, Erdogan wrote a letter of “regret” to the family of the pilot, CNN reports. Russian President Vladimir Putin was then among the first world leaders to call Erdogan and offer his support after Erdogan faced down an attempted military coup in July.
The two leaders spoke several times on the phone recently while working on a deal to evacuate citizens from Aleppo, according to CNN.
Erdogan and Putin have spoken after the assassination of Karlov, CNN reports.
5. Karlov Became the Russian Ambassador to Turkey in 2013 & Was a Married Father
Karlov has been the Russian Federation’s Ambassador to Turkey since July 2013, according to the embassy’s website.
He was a lifelong diplomat, starting his career in 1976 in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1979 to 1984, and then again from 1986 to 1997, he was assigned to his country’s embassy in South Korea.
He was Russia’s ambassador to South Korea from 2001 to 2006, before returning home to serve as the deputy director general for consular affairs from 2007 to 2013.
Andrey Karlov, whose name is also at times spelled Andrei Karlov, was married and has a son, according to the Embassy of the Russian Federation to Turkey’s website.
He was born in 1954 in Moscow, and graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 1976.
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