Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was gunned down Monday at an art exhibit in the Turkish capital of Ankara, according to reports.
Turkish security officials think the gunman, Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old police officer, was a follower of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric blamed for orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey over the summer. But a representative for Gulen denied any involvement and condemned the killing.
According to reports, Altintas yelled “Allahu Akbar” and “don’t forget Aleppo” before shooting Karlov at least eight times. Then, before an officer shot him dead in the gallery, Altintas shouted: “Until these places are safe you will not taste any safety either.”
The assassination comes a day before diplomats from Turkey, Iran and Russia are set to meet to discuss the situation in the war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria, CNN reports. Russia has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, carrying out airstrikes against rebels in Aleppo since September 2015. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the ouster of Assad.
Russia’s foreign ministry is calling the incident an act of terror. “A crime has been committed and it was without doubt a provocation aimed at spoiling the normalization of Russo-Turkish relations and spoiling the Syrian peace process which is being actively pushed by Russia, Turkey, Iran and others,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin.