Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici was covering a photo exhibition in Ankara when a gunman opened fire, assassinating Russia’s ambassador to Turkey. He recounts the chaos that unfolded as he captured the scene.
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The event was routine enough — the opening of an exhibit of photographs of Russia — and when a man on stage pulled out a gun I thought it was a theatrical flourish.
An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. A gunman in a suit and tie shouted slogans about Syria’s civil war after he killed Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in front of stunned onlookers at a photo exhibition in the Turkish capital on Monday, according to an Associated Press photographer who witnessed the shooting. Police later killed the assailant, Turkish station NTV reported. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
It was anything but. Moments later the Russian ambassador was sprawled on the floor and the attacker was waving his gun at the rest of us, shouting slogans. He shot the ambassador at least once more at close range and smashed some of the framed photos on the wall. In all there were at least eight shots.
Guests ran for cover, hiding behind columns and under tables. I composed myself enough to shoot pictures.
“Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria!” the gunman shouted in Turkish, referring to the Syrian city where Russian bombardments have helped drive rebels from areas they had occupied for years during the war. He also shouted “Allahu akbar” but I couldn’t understand the rest of what he said in Arabic.
Authorities would later confirm that Ambassador Andrei Karlov, 62, was dead. The gunman, identified as police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas, was killed after a 15-minute shootout.