The Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot dead at an art gallery in the capital Ankara on Monday by a gunman shouting “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!”
A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed the death of envoy Andrey Karlov, a 62-year-old career diplomat.
“We qualify what happened as a terrorist act,” Maria Zakharova said. “We are in contact with Turkish officials who ensured us that a thorough and all-side investigation will be conducted. Killers will be punished.”
Turkish police fatally shot the gunman, Turkish station NTV reported.
Attacker was pacing and shouting
The ambassador was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition, when a smartly dressed man wearing a black suit and tie shouted “Allahu Akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” and fired at least eight shots, according an Associated Press photographer.
The attacker also said some words in Russian and smashed several of the photos hung for the exhibition.
WARNING: The video below contains graphic content.
The attacker was standing behind the ambassador as he made a speech at the art exhibition, a person at the scene told Reuters.
“He took out his gun and shot the ambassador from behind. We saw him lying on the floor and then we ran out,” said the witness, who asked not to be identified.
Turkish security sources told Reuters the gunman was an off-duty police officer who worked in Ankara.
A video showed the attacker shouting: “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” As screams rang out, he could be seen pacing about and shouting as he held the gun in one hand and waved the other in the air.
The man 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.”
Another photograph showed four people — including what appeared to be the ambassador — lying on the floor.
Hurriyet newspaper said Turkish special forces had surrounded the building. NTV said three other people were wounded.
Russia, Turkey at odds over Syria
The attack came a day before a meeting of Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign and defence ministers in Moscow to discuss Syria.
Russia and Turkey have been involved in conflict in Syria across the border from where over two million Syrian refugees have settled.
Turkey has been a staunch opponent of President Bashar al-Assad while Russia has deployed troops and its air force in support of the Syrian leader.
Russia and Turkey have co-sponsored the evacuation of civilians and rebels from Aleppo and also discussed the prospect of organizing a new round of peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.
UN, U.S. condemn attack
“There can be no justification for an attack on an ambassador … and we very much hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek told reporters outside the exhibition centre that the “heinous” attack aimed to disrupt newly re-established relations between Turkey and Russia.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said U.S. officials were aware of reports about the shooting.
“We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source,” Kirby said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
Karlov joined the diplomatic service in 1976. He served as Russia’s ambassador to Pyongyang in 2001-2006, and later worked as the chief of the Foreign Ministry’s consular department. He had served as the ambassador to Turkey since 2013.