Russian Ambassador Andre Karlov was assassinated today by a police officer in front of a live audience in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara. Mevlüt Mert Altintas, wearing a black suit and tie, entered the art gallery, shouted “Allah Akbar” and “We die in Aleppo, you die here” as he shot Karlov.
Since he was part of Ankara’s police riot squad, it is believed he used his police badge to bypass security with gun in hand.
A live video feed shows Karlov delivering his speech at the art gallery, being shot, and slumping to the ground. The video pans out to Altintas who waved his pistol at the audience and continued to gesture wildly in the air. Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador lay there unmoving. After a 15 minute standoff with police, Altintas was killed. Karlov was rushed to the hospital, but pronounced DOA.
During the killer’s rant, he referenced Aleppo. The referenced city is the capital of Syria, where Russia has engaged rebel forces who rose up against the Syrian government demanding better opportunities. Russia has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2012 trying to turn the tide against the rebels who captured and controlled roughly half the city.
Russian’s Foreign Ministry describes it as a “terrorist attack”. Vladimir Putin had this to say,
‘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.’ He ordered security at Russian embassies to be stepped up and said he wanted to know who had ‘directed’ the gunman’s hand.
The timing coincides with diplomatic proceedings happening the next day, indicating Turkey, Iran, and Russia were meeting to discuss Aleppo.
American politicians have also watched Aleppo with a wary eye. The Syrian refugee crisis has come into the public eye on a more broad scale because of the power vacuum that has attracted ISIS, Russia, Iran, and America to some degree. Syria sits on the eastern board of the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey sits directly north of Syria, sharing a border. Turkey and Russia also share a maritime border, with Turkey on the south side of the Black Sea and Russia’s southern-most border coming alongside the north side of the Black Sea. There are a little more than 500 miles between the northmost part of Syria and Russia’s southern tip. Iran is also 448 miles east of Aleppo. And Syria shares a border with Israel, America’s strongest Middle-Eastern ally.
Whoever controls Aleppo will have control of the eastern port of the Mediterranean sea and has the ability to attack Israel directly. These geopolitical factors are all putting tension on one country to act swiftly before an opposing, and perhaps, enemy country moves in.