Tuesday Dec 20, 2016

Russian ambassador to Turkey assassinated


ANKARA/MOSCOW: The Russian ambassador to Ankara died Monday after being shot in a gun attack in the Turkish capital, the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow said Monday, describing the incident as a "terrorist act".

Dramatic television footage showed a man in a dark suit and tie waving a gun and gesturing in the air at the Ankara exhibition hall.

Local media reported that the attacker chanted slogans in Arabic as he gunned down the Russian envoy.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said the gunman had been "neutralised" in a police operation, without giving further details.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had been informed of the attack.

Meanwhile, officials in Turkey claimed that they had found strong evidence against Fethullah Gülen of being involved in the attack.

Pictures published by the Hurriyet daily showed at least two men in suits lying flat on the ground as another man brandished a gun.

Turkish Interior Minister 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.

'People fleeing'

The shooting took place at the Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi, a major art exhibition hall in the Cankaya district of Ankara where most foreign embassies are located including Russia´s mission.

"It happened during the opening of an exhibition," Hurriyet correspondent Hasim Kilic, who was at the scene, told AFP.

"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," said Kilic.

"He said something about Aleppo and ´revenge´. He ordered the civilians to leave the room. When people were fleeing, he fired again," he added.

Protesters in Turkey have held Moscow responsible for human rights violations in Aleppo.

Turkey and Russia saw relations plunge to their worst levels since the Cold War last year when a Turkish jet shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.

They stand on opposite sides of the Syria conflict with Ankara backing rebels trying to topple Moscow-ally President Bashar al-Assad.

But the rhetoric has warmed considerably since a reconciliation deal was signed earlier this year and a Russian and Turkish-brokered deal has helped the evacuation of citizens from Aleppo in the last days.

The attack comes a day before Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, Assad´s other key ally, were to hold unprecedented tripartite talks on the Syria conflict in Moscow.

A Turkish official on Monday denied Ankara had forged any secret "bargain" with Moscow over the future of Syria, despite the improving cooperation that led to the deal for evacuations from Aleppo.

Putin calls the killing, ‘a provocation’

putin 2

President Vladimir Putin on Monday called the killing of Russia´s ambassador in Turkey a "provocation" aimed at sabotaging warming ties between Moscow and Ankara and efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria.

 "The crime that was committed is, without doubt, a provocation aimed at disrupting the normalisation of Russian-Turkish relations and disrupting the peace process in Syria," Putin said in televised comments. 

Erdogan calls Putin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to brief him over the gun attack, the Turkish presidency said.

"The president has spoken by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin to share information about tonight´s attack," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement.

‘Turkey will not allow shooting to overshadow ties’

Turkey will not allow Monday's shooting to "cast a shadow" over Turkish-Russian friendship, the Turkey's foreign ministry said, expressing deep sadness and condemning the "lowly terrorist attack".

The statement, paying tribute to the ambassador as being a well-respected diplomat, said the attacker had been "neutralised" and that those responsible for the attack would be brought to justice.

'US ready to help Russia, Turkey investigate attack'

US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the killing and said that the United States was ready to help Russia and Turkey investigates the attack.

"The United States condemns the assassination today in Ankara of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov," Kerry said in a statement.

"We stand ready to offer assistance to Russia and Turkey as they investigate this despicable attack, which was also an assault on the right of all diplomats to safely and securely advance and represent their nations around the world.”

The US Defense Department also condemned the shooting. Meanwhile, President Barrack Obama was briefed by national security team on the shooting of Russian Ambassador to Turkey, said a White House spokesman.

Appalled by this senseless act of terror: UN Secretary-General 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the murder of the Russian ambassador in Turkey, saying he was "appalled by this senseless act of terror."

Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead while attending an art exhibition in Ankara by a Turkish policeman.

Ban is "appalled by this senseless act of terror and emphasizes that there can be no justification for the targeting of diplomatic personnel and civilians," said a statement from his spokesman. "The secretary-general is following the unfolding situation closely and wishes the other people who were reportedly injured in the attack a speedy and full recovery."

The UN Security Council will on Tuesday observe a minute a silence to pay tribute to the Russian diplomat, said Spanish Ambassador Roman Oyarzun, the current council president. The council was preparing a formal statement condemning the attack.

Venezuela´s Ambassador Rafael Ramirez denounced what he termed as a "campaign of hatred" against Russia, in reference to mounting criticism from Western powers of Moscow´s role in Syria.

"Everything that is said, everything that is done in a situation which is so fraught with extremist actions, such as the situation in Syria, it does have, unfortunately, consequences," said Ramirez.

Trump calls the gunman, 'radical Islamic terrorist'

US President-elect Donald Trump on Monday condemned the assassination of Russia´s ambassador to Turkey, calling the gunman a "radical Islamic terrorist."

"Today we offer our condolences to the family and loved ones of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, who was assassinated by a radical Islamic terrorist," Trump said in a statement. 

"The murder of an ambassador is a violation of all rules of civilized order and must be universally condemned."

UK PM concerned over ambassador's killing

British Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament she was concerned about the reports of the assassination in the capital Ankara.

"I was just looking at what I believe…is some breaking news, that the Russian ambassador to Turkey has been shot,” May said in the middle of a question and answer session.

“I think is a matter of concern," she said.