ANKARA (AFP) – A Turkish policeman crying ‘’Aleppo’’ and ‘’Allahu Akbar’’ shot dead Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in Ankara on Monday, prompting a vow from President Vladimir Putin to step up the fight against ‘’terrorism.’’
Andrei Karlov died of his wounds after the shooting in an Ankara exhibition centre, which came on the eve of a key meeting in Moscow between the Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers on the Syria conflict.
Dramatic footage showed the moment the gunman shot the veteran diplomat in the back as he opened a show of Russian photographs.
Images showed the ambassador standing up to speak at a lectern, before stumbling and crashing to the ground as shots ring out, lying flat on his back as the attacker — dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie — brandishes his gun at shocked onlookers.
The man shouts ‘’Allahu Akbar’’ (‘’God is greater’’) and then talks about jihad in Arabic, the images showed.
Switching to Turkish, he then says: ‘’Don’t forget about Syria, don’t forget about Aleppo. All those who participate in this tyranny will be held accountable’’.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said the gunman had been ‘’neutralized’’ in a police operation inside the hall after 15 minutes of clashes when he refused to surrender.
Photos showing the man lying on the ground, riddled with bullet wounds, quickly began to circulate on social media.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu identified the attacker as Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, who had worked in the Ankara anti-riot police for the last two and a half years.
His mother, father and sister were reportedly detained for questioning in their home in western Turkey.
‘Baying for blood’
The killing came after days of protests in Turkey over Russia’s role in Syria, although Moscow and Ankara are now working closely together to evacuate citizens from the battered city of Aleppo.
Putin called the killing of Russia’s ambassador a ‘’provocation’’ aimed at sabotaging warming ties between Moscow and Ankara and efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria.
‘’There can be only one answer to this — stepping up the fight against terrorism, and the bandits will feel this,’’ Putin said at a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister and the heads of the overseas and domestic intelligence agencies.
‘’We have to know who directed the hand of the killer,’’ Putin said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed Putin’s comments, saying the killing was aimed at wrecking a normalization process that had taken root after a crisis sparked when Turkey shot down a Russian plane over Syria.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday said he was ‘’appalled by this senseless act of terror’’, while US President-elect Donald Trump condemned the killing, calling the gunman a ‘’radical Islamic terrorist’’.