A gunman in Turkey wearing a business suit and tie opened fire Monday on Russia’s ambassador, killing the diplomat and wounding several others at photo exhibit in the Turkish capital, officials said. The gunman was killed as panicked people scattered for cover in the gallery.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. But video posted on social media purported to show a Turkish-speaking attacker decrying violence in Syria, where Russia is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Ambassador Andrei Karlov died after being hit in the back by gunfire. Earlier, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said efforts to treat Karlov were delayed as gunfire raged.
Photos from the gallery showed the suspected attacker, wearing a dark suit and tie, gripping a pistol as he stood near the fallen ambassador. The gunman was later killed, Russian official said.
“We consider this to have been a terrorist attack,” Zakharova said. “Terrorism will not pass. We will fight it decisively.”
Several other people were wounded in the gallery attack, but their identities were not immediately made public.
Russia and Turkey, a foe of Assad, recently joined to broker a deal to evacuate civilians and rebel fighters from the last opposition enclaves in Aleppo, a major Syrian city that has been under relentless attacks from Syrian forces and their allies.
“Allah Akbar! Do not forget Aleppo!” said the gunman, according to the widely circulated video. “Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! As long as our lands are not safe, you will not be safe!
The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed.
CNN Turk television reported that shooting continued after the attack targeting the ambassador.
The Associated Press published a photo showing a man lying on the ground with an armed assailant dressed in a suit standing nearby.
Karlov started his diplomatic career during the Soviet era in 1976 and had previously served at Russian embassies in Seoul and Pyongyang, North Korea. He took the post in Ankara in July 2013, according to the embassy’s website.
Turkey has been hit by a series of attacks in recent years blamed on groups including the Islamic State and Kurdish separatists, who have battled the government for decades for greater autonomy in Turkey’s southeastern regions.
In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby condemned Monday’s attack.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the attack appeared to be spurred by Turkish cooperation with Russia in Aleppo.
“Turkey had taken matters into its hands for a while and was negotiating with Russia on Aleppo and other issues,” he said. “This will make it difficult for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to continue to work with Turkey.”
Leonid Slutsky, head of the committee on international affairs of the Russian lower house of parliament, said talks in Moscow between the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey over Syria will continue as planned.
“I think that tomorrow despite this monstrous tragedy, that will cast gloom not only these talks, something constructive will nonetheless be achieved.
“Now Moscow, and Ankara will have to forcibly move toward a solution,” he said.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · David Filipov, Brian Murphy