This is a developing story, and there will obviously be more to say at a later time. But the news broke within the last couple of hours that Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was fatally shot at a cultural event in Ankara on Monday, by a gunman shouting “Allahu akbar!”
CNN has this summary:
In a video circulating on social media that shows the shooting of the ambassador, the gunman is heard shouting, “Allahu akbar (God is great). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”
“Get back! Get back!” the man can be heard shouting in Turkish as he waves a gun.
“Only death will remove me from here. Everyone who has taken part in this oppression will one by one pay for it,” he said.
Turkish authorities stated afterward that the gunman had been “neutralized.” Reporting from the UK Mirror indicates, based on Turkish media, that the gunman was a Turk, and was killed by police:
The gunman – identified by Turkish media as Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş – was a police officer who used police identification to enter Ankara’s Centre for Contemporary Arts.
The Mirror continues:
Photos showed the attacker, wearing a black suit and tie, standing behind Mr Karlov with his hands clasped before pulling out a handgun in his right hand and opening fire.
The gunman extended his right arm and pointed the gun at Mr Karlov, and then gestured with his left index finger pointed into the air after shooting the ambassador multiple times.
Witnesses were heard screaming in terror as they ran out of the art gallery, and the gunman was heard shouting slogans as he pointed his finger in the air and pointed his gun towards the fleeing crowd.
A second person (other than Altıntaş) was reported to have been shot in the melee. I’ve only seen reports that the person was injured.
The Kremlin said Putin called an emergency meeting with his senior staff. It sounds like good news that the Russian statement so far has been that Moscow regards this as terrorism:
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “We regard this as a terrorist act.
“Terrorism will not win and we will fight against it decisively.”
That said, the echoes of the 1914 assassination in Sarajevo that kicked off World War I are too obvious to ignore. I emphasize that I do not think Russia will use this event as an excuse to start a war. Not a war with Turkey, at any rate. But given the real instability of the situation in the region as a whole, it may be an excuse for something short of war that Turkey will not like at all. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is probably the worst Turkish leader to have in office at a time when Russia and Iran are consolidating a military occupation of western Syria, which is in effect what is happening with the reconquest of Aleppo. But any Turk would react badly to that development.
At a time when NATO and the EU are fading fast, and therefore present less and less of a counterweight to Russia, Moscow is establishing control of eastern Ukraine, strengthening ties with Greece, prowling the coast of Syria with a constant naval presence, and gaining control of western Syria. These moves amount to closing a pincer on Turkey.
Iran, meanwhile, is deploying troops in the guise of Shia basiji militias into Iraq, first across central Iraq — all the way to Ramadi — and now into the outskirts of Mosul, a comparatively short distance from the Turkish border. Iran is also involved in reconquering western Syria — and remains the primary sponsor of Hezbollah, which now controls most of Lebanon in all but name.
Iran’s moves too are a pincer aimed at Turkey, if you see it from Turkey’s perspective. It’s not just the land being occupied; it’s the coastline and adjacent sea and airspace that the land gives Iran and Russia a veto over. As Rush Limbaugh likes to say, don’t doubt me on this. There is a security emergency building for Turkey. We can’t be sanguine about what Erdogan, himself a neo-Ottoman Islamist radical, is going to do.
There are major and very real security disruptions happening before our eyes. Now is not the time for high-profile assassinations, brought off — like the one in 1914 — by terrorists.