“Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price. We are the one who pledged allegiance to Muhammad, to wage jihad.”
Dressed in a black suit and tie, Mevlut Mert Altintas moved with a mission. The Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov was billed to give a speech at the opening of an art exhibition at an art gallery in Turkish capital, Ankara. Atlintas was said to be off-duty on that day but showed up still, he positioned himself behind the ambassador in a premeditated stance. As the ambassador speaks, Atlintas adjusts his jacket, touches his holster and in three separate moments that may be interpreted as those of hesitation, he reaches for his pocket and holster. Meanwhile, he had moved to the other side of the ambassador: his vantage point.
From this position, he grabbed his gun, shouted Allahu Akbar several times and shot at the ambassador at least 9 times, leaving the crowd in shock and disarray. In the midst of this, he gave the short speech above while he smashed some of the framed photos on the gallery wall before he was himself shot dead by the police.
CNN reports that the words Mert spoke before his death were similar to the unofficial anthem of the Al Qaeda allied group, Al Nusra and he has been described by the United States president-elect in his condolence speech as a “radical Islamic terrorist“.
But who was Mevlut Mert Atlintas before he became a terrorist?
Mert was born in 1994 in Aydin, a province in Southwestern Turkey, located in the Aegean region. He attended Korfez Preparatory School and later, the Police College in Izmir from wherer he graduated in 2014.
He began work in Ankara’s riot police department over two years ago and at this time, moved into a block of flats in Demetevler, the working-class suburb of Ankara. After the coup attempt that was foiled by Turkish citizens in July, Mert moved out of this apartment selling everything he owned before leaving. At this time, he was said to have taken three days leave after the coup. Other reports also have it that Mert was suspected to have links with the individuals who plotted the failed coup. He was suspended by the Ankara police until mid-November.
At the time of this attack on the Russian Ambassador, Mert was on leave from work. On the Wednesday before that day, he had checked into a hotel near the gallery. He was seen at the exhibition and gallery staff said he stayed a little while before leaving. The coordinator of the exhibition, Timur Ozkan said he raised no suspicions but “our guess now is that either he got confused about the date of the exhibition that he planned to attack – or that he was performing a reconnaissance mission“.
On the day of the attack, Mert set off the metal detector at the gallery door but was let in by security as he had his police badge pinned to his suit and was able to show his police ID.
After killing the ambassador and firing shots in the air to scare off other guests, Mert engaged in a shootout with the police until he was fatally shot. His mum, dad, sister and flatmate have been detained by the police for questioning.
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