Who Ordered the Hit on Russia’s Ambassador?
A terrifying execution of Russian ambassador to Turkey sparked stories of WWI, in which a single fatal shot to a dignitary launched the world into the first great war made possible due to complicated alliances – much like the global hornet’s nest that is Syria.
Speaking at an art gallery in Ankara, the 62 year-old Ambassador Andrei Karlov had eight shots fired into his back by a 22-year old Mevlut Mert Altinatas, an off-duty member of the Ankara special forces police department. The graphic video, going viral within the first hour of the shooting, shares Ambassador Karlovs sudden pain and confusion as he falls to the ground in the last moments of this life. Altinatas lunged from the background, barely noticeable seconds prior. He paced the floor, aiming his gun into the crowd in several punctuated movements, shouting:
“Allahu Akbar (God is Great). We die in Aleppo, you die here! Stand back! Stand back! Only death will take me out of here. Anyone who has a role in this oppression will die one by one.”
The attack complicates already fragile talksbetween Russia and Turkey, countries defined by leadership that is insolvable, immovable, and culturally anchored to the idea of honor. The attack also came at the heels of critical talks hosted by Russia between Russia, Turkey and Iran on evacuating civilians in Aleppo – scheduled for just 24 hours later.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has called the attack an act of terrorism particularly egregious because of Ambassador Karlov’s status as an esteemed statesman. Ambassador Karlov had also served as Russian ambassador to North Korea. He was assigned to an ambassadorship in Turkey in July 2013 during an international crisis that saw a Russian jet shoot down a Turkish plane, a conflict that was only recently resolved diplomatically.
Immediate media reports across multiple trusted global agencies describe Altinatas as a “gunman”, minimizing speculation as to motives. Nevertheless, he demonstrated a common mark of allegiance immediately after the attack: the tawheed.
The pointed index finger into the air, signifying “God is One,” is the trademark gesture of ISIS and lone wolf attacks who have pledged their allegiance to the world’s most underestimated terror franchise. Dark web chatter shows Altinatas already being immortalized in back channels by ISIS supporters through memes and avatars. So far he has not been claimed by ISIS as an agent.