A lot of news is developing here and it may quickly be overcome by events. But here’s what we have so far (this post replaces our scheduled 1800 post).
- The Ambassador did not have significant (i.e. armed) security.
- He and two others are reported shot. One is believed to have been the individual translating for him, probably a Russian Embassy officer.
- He was taken by surprise while giving a routine speech at the opening of a Russian-Turkish art exhibit at the Contemporary Art Center in Ankara. Engagements for diplomats don’t get any more routine or low-threat than that.
- The gunman began yelling before he fired, and may have fired a warning shot (reports disagree), but then immediately shot the Ambassador in the back. The Ambassador was hit by multiple rounds and appears to have died immediately. (He was not pronounced dead until 19:53 Turkish time, after attempts to resuscitate him in hospital). Numerous photos from the scene (there was a significant media presence) show him remaiing in the exact same position once he falls.
- The shooter was a Turk, a police officer who was standing behind the Ambassador as if providing security. He apparently was wearing an appropriate recognition signal for police/bodyguards.
- So far,
Turkish sources have not revealed the man’s name or exact assignment, beyond that his duties were in Istanbul. Update: The attacker was 22-year-old Mevlüt Mert Alintas, born 24 June 94, in Söke, an Aegean coastal town once populated by Greeks who were subsequently ethnically cleansed. (The town was resettled with Turks “cleansed” in turn from Greek and Cypriot territory). He appears to be an ethnic Turk, not a Kurd or other minority member.
- The shooter harangued the crowd, with slogans in Arabic but declarations in Turkish, while threatening them with his service pistol.
- The shooter is reported to have been put down by a national CT team.
How it went down, in pictures.
Ambassador Andrei Gennadyevich Karlov begins his speech at an art gallery. What only one person at the gallery knows, the young man out of focus behind him to the left, is that the young man, a Turkish policeman, is here to murder Karlov.
Karlov is a career diplomat, who has been Ambassador to both Koreas before. He has seconds to live.
After the first shots, Karlov is down. So is another man (l.) who may have been the interpreter translating for Karlov, who had been positioned to Karlov’s right (out of the frame in the picture above to the left… you can see, from the relative positions of the microphones in the photos below, where he stood; the silver mic was the Ambassador’s, and the black one the translator’s). The photographer in this Hürriyet photo is clearly proned out himself; while the gunman harangues the survivors, who are clustered in a knot behind a wall (you can see them in the left rear of the picture below).
This next picture shows the reactions of the people attending the exhibit opening. (Where we had them we preserved the original news agency captions). Absence of a counterattack on the attacking cop suggests that there were no armed personnel on hand.
This is in keeping with what is known about Karlov, who disdained armed security, and would not ride in armored vehicles. When Turkish journalists asked him about it (he’s been Ambassador to Turkey since 2013), he told them that “Nobody will do anything to me.”
After murdering Karlov, the gunman remained on guard, menacing the members of the public even as he harangued them with his message. His pistol handling shows signs of traning.
The cop/shooter periodically raised and lowered his handgun, which appears to be a Turkish-made CZ derivative. When he was or just had been threatening someone, he got on the trigger; otherwise he maintained well-trained trigger discipline.
Note poor Karlov’s glasses, slid across the floor as he fell lifeless.
He periodically made the “one finger” gesture commonly associated with ISIL and other Islamist extremists (it symbolizes “monotheism,” in response to the Islamist belief that Christianity and many other religions practice shirk, or polytheism).
The relative lack of bleeding also suggests that Karlov was killed instantly. At one point the gunman seemed to check him, as if considering a coup de grâce.
There are a lot more pictures of the one-finger gesture.
Analysis (incl. Opinion)
Rather predictably, a government that embraces Islamism gets it good and hard in the end, and this, of course, is what happened to Pakistan starting with Zia Al-Haq. Now it appears to be happening to Turkey. Erdogan has ridden the Islamist tiger, and now it’s his turn on the teeth end.
While Turkey is fertile ground for conspiracy theories, and many will doubtless emerge blaming everyone from the US to the Kurds to the Russians themselves, the most probably reason for this murder is exactly what the murderer said: self-radicalized Islamic fundamentalism.
For more information
The Turkish de facto state-controlled paper Hürriyet has limited coverage in English; Google Translate’s Turkish is pretty weak but you can decode some of these things. Hürriyet’s reporters and photographers were present at the scene of the crime.
Hürriyet Google translated: Who is Andrey Karlov?
A final warning
On major, breaking stories, the press’s bias is entirely towards speed, not accuracy. Do not be surprised or think conspiracy is afoot, just because any of the early reports we’ve posted here are soon contradicted. That’s almost inevitable, because it’s almost a certainty that every early report (including this one!) contains major errors.