The off-duty police officer shot Andrei Karlov, 62, a number of times in the back from close range at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey. The gunman told him “We die in Aleppo, you die here.” Andrei Karlov was several minutes into making a speech at the launch of an exhibition of photography about Russian culture. Photographs were taken by the Associated Press and while some went for cover, others tried to capture the shocking attack. Eyewitnesses said the attacker shot Mr. Karlov one more time when he was dying on the floor. “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria,” the killer said in Turkish. He reportedly paced around the body and smashed several framed photographs on exhibition but allowed the stupefied attendees to leave. The chilling incident was captured on video. Russia described it as a terrorist attack. The murder resulted in protests in Turkey over Russia’s involvement with Bashar al-Asad.
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The killer is Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22 year old riot squad police officer and has been living in Ankara for the past two years. He was shot dead by Turkish special forces in a shoot out which lasted 15 minutes and three other people were also wounded. Russia and Turkey are on opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. After a telephone conversation with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Putin said it was “a tragic day in the history of our country and Russian diplomacy.” Putin called the killing a “provocation” intended to disrupt the newly re-established political relations between Russia and Turkey. He also proclaimed that Russian officials will be sent to Ankara to investigate the killing.
Media outlets said the killer showed his police ID to enter the gallery. Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said “It could have been a planned terrorist attack by extremists or it could be the work of a lone maniac. After we know, we’ll be able to understand how this will affect Russian-Turkish relations.” Relations between Russia and Turkey were impaired after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane at the Syrian border in November 2015. Erdogan sent a letter of apology to Putin earlier this year which helped to subdue the rift.