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Russia ambassador to Turkey dies of gun wounds; Erdogan briefs Putin

The man who shot dead the Russian ambassador to Ankara on Monday has been identified as a Turkish policeman, the city's mayor said; Turkish president Erdogan briefs Russian president Putin on attack

Reuters , AP , AFP , Monday 19 Dec 2016
Andrei Karlov
The Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks at a gallery in Ankara Monday Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo)
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A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed in a televised statement on Monday evening that the country's ambassador to Turkey has died after being shot by a gunman in Ankara.

Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital, Ankara, when a man wearing a suit and tie shouted "Allahu akbar" and fired at least eight shots, according to an AP photographer in the audience.

The man who shot dead the Russian ambassador to Ankara on Monday has been identified as a Turkish policeman, the city's mayor said.

"The attacker is a policeman," Melih Gokcek said on his official Twitter account, after numerous reports on social media identified the gunman.

The Yeni Safak daily said on its website that the attacker -- named as M.M.A. -- worked with anti-riot police in Ankara.

Shortly after the gun attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to brief him, the Turkish presidency said.

"The president has spoken by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin to share information about tonight's attack," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement.

The Turkish Anadolu news agency said the gunman had been "neutralised" soon after the attack, which appeared to mark one of the most serious spillovers of the Syria conflict in Turkey. Relations between Moscow and Ankara have long been fraught over the conflict, the two supporting opposing sides.

The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the attack mounted as Ambassador Andrei Karlov made a speech at the opening of a photographic exhibition. Hurriyet newspaper said Turkish special forces had surrounded the building. NTV said three other people were wounded.

A Reuters witness said that while gunfire rang out for some time after the attack, it had now stopped. A Hurriyet newspaper reporter said the attacker chanted Islamist slogans.

Russia and Turkey have been involved in conflict in Syria across the border from where over two million Syrian refugees have settled. Turkey has been a staunch opponent of President Bashar al-Assad while Russia has deployed troops and its air force in support of the Syrian leader.

Tensions have escalated in recent weeks as Russian-backed Syrian forces have fought for control of the eastern part of the city of Aleppo, triggering a stream of refugees.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack. Islamic State militants have been active in Turkey and carried out several bomb attacks on Turkish targets.

A photograph posted on twitter showed a man in a black suit holding a pistol, standing close to a podium in the gallery, its walls hung with pictures. Four people including what appeared to be the ambassador lay on the floor.

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