Updated 6:07 p.m. E.T.
Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer while attending an art exhibit in Ankara on Monday evening, Turkish officials confirmed. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the assassination a “terrorist attack,” and leaders around the world condemned the shooting as “cowardly” and “despicable.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, in a press statement, said the U.S. was ready to “offer assistance to Russia and Turkey as they investigate this despicable attack.” President-elect Donald Trump weighed in on Monday evening, through a statement, describing the killer as a “radical Islamic terrorist.”
Karlov, who had been Russia’s ambassador to Turkey since 2013, was shot at the lectern while speaking to a small audience in attendance at the gallery. He was rushed to the hospital, where he later died from his injuries, Reuters reported.
Turkish media identified the gunman as Mert Altintas, an active member of Ankara’s police force who was off-duty at the time of the attack, contradicting earlier reports from Turkish officials claiming the gunman had entered the event by impersonating a police officer.
The gunman allegedly called out “Allahu Akbar” in Arabic before firing at least eight shots and smashing some photos, according to an AP photographer in attendance. In a video of the attack, the gunman can be seen shouting “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” in Turkish as the ambassador’s body lay on the ground.
At least three other people were wounded during the attack before the gunman was shot and killed by fellow police officers at the scene.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately following the attack, according to Russian state-run media outlet RT. Putin in televised comments to the Russian people said the assassination sought to spoil “the normalization of Russo-Turkish relations,” as well as the “Syrian peace process.” He vowed to step up Russia’s fight against terrorism, Reuters reported.
Karlov was involved in the recent and ongoing Russia-Turkey-led cease-fire negotiations between rebel forces and the Bashar Assad regime in the battle for Aleppo. Both countries brokered a deal that allowed for evacuations out of the besieged city, and were set to hold further discussions, along with Syria and Iran, in Moscow on Tuesday.
Protests against the assault on eastern Aleppo, and Russia’s support for the Assad regime, flared throughout Turkey in recent days as footage of the ongoing atrocities in the besieged city shared widely.
This story is developing.