The sharp-suited Turkish policeman who killed Russian envoy

The sharp-suited Turkish policeman who killed Russian envoy
PHOTO: Reuters

Istanbul - The assassin of the Russian ambassador to Ankara was a 22-year-old from a quiet region in the west of Turkey who had served with the anti-riot police for less than three years.

The man identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and "Don't forget Aleppo" as he waved his gun around at a cultural centre in the Turkish capital.

But there has yet to be any indication Altintas, who was later "neutralised" by police", was attracted to religious extremism or had any history of activism.

Images showed the clean-shaven man smartly dressed in a suit, tie and white shirt pull out a gun and fire at ambassador Andrei Karlov from behind as the envoy opened a Russian photography exhibition in Ankara.

He then threatened terrified spectators, yelling "Allahu Akbar" and saying that the murder was vengeance for Russia's actions in the war-battered Syrian city of Aleppo.

Russian ambassador to Turkey shot dead (Warning, disturbing content)

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    Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov makes a speech at an art gallery shortly before he was shot in Ankara, Turkey, December 19, 2016.

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    Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov lies on the ground after he was shot by Mevlut Mert Altintas (man standing with gun) at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, December 19, 2016.

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    Mevlut Mert Altintas is an off-duty police officer who shouted "Don't forget Aleppo" and "Allahu Akbar" as he opened fire.

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    "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.

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    A video showed the attacker shouting: "Don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria!" and "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Greatest") as screams rang out.

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    He paced about and shouted as he held the gun in one hand and waved the other in the air.

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    The gunman was killed by special forces.

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergei Naryshkin and Alexander Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 19, 2016, few hours after the Russian ambassador to Ankara was shot dead by a gunman during an attack at an art exhibition in Ankara.

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    Flowers lie next to a picture of Russia's ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov outside the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow following his assassination in Ankara on December 19, 2016.

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    Two women pay their respects after laying flowers outside the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow following the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey on December 19, 2016.

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    Turkish policemen stand guard near the Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi, a major art exhibition hall, where Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, has been shot dead on December 19, 2016 in a gun attack during an art exhibition in Ankara.

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    Turkish policemen stand guard near the Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi.

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    Turkish Minister of Interior, Suleyman Soylu speaks to journalists outside the Private Guven Hospital where Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, is treated after being shot by a gunman during an attack at an art exhibition in Ankara.

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    Turkish soldiers and policemen stand guard near the Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi.

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    Turkish police secure the area near an art gallery where the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was shot in Ankara, Turkey, December 19, 2016.

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    This handout picture taken on November 16, 2016 and released on December 19, 2016 by the Russian Foreign Ministry, shows Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara.

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    Turkish soldiers and policemen stand guard near the Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi.

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    Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu arrives to the art gallery where Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was shot in Ankara, Turkey, December 19, 2016.

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    Turkish police secure the area near an art gallery where the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was shot in Ankara, Turkey, December 19, 2016.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Altintas was born in the town of Soke in Aydin province in western Turkey and attended a special school for training future policemen.

Altintas then joined the Ankara anti-riot police - the Cevik Kuvvet in Turkish - and had worked there for the last two-and-a-half-years.

Photo: Twitter screengrab

The region of Aydin on the Aegean coast is one of Turkey's most peaceful regions well away from trouble-spots and the country's most religiously conservative areas.

After the attack on Karlov, Altintas refused to surrender and remained inside the exhibition centre as clashes took place with police for 15 minutes.

But he was then killed by police in an operation, authorities said.

Reports said that his mother, father and sister were immediately detained for questioning in their homes in western Turkey.

Read also: Russian ambassador shot dead in Ankara gallery

The mayor of Ankara, Melih Gokcek, known for his outspoken comments, speculated on his official Twitter account that the attacker may be linked to the group of Fethullah Gulen blamed for the July 15 coup aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

His suggestion has yet to be echoed by other officials.

In footage from the scene, Altintas talks about pledging allegiance to jihad in Arabic.

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 attack came after days of angry protests in Turkey over Russia's actions in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

But Erdogan has spearheaded a rapprochement with Russia in recent months and the two countries had been working closely to remove civilians from war-torn Aleppo.

on SPH Brightcove

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