Burhan Ozbilici captures Andrey Karlov’s final moments
Photographer was attending the event when an off-duty policeman killed Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov.
Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici was attending a photo exhibition when a gunman opened fire, assassinating Russia’s ambassador to Turkey. He recounts the chaos that unfolded as he captured the scene.
“Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria!” the gunman shouted in Turkish, referring to the Syrian city where Russian bombardments have helped to 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 Andrey Karlov, 62, was dead. The gunman, identified as police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas, was killed after a 15-minute shootout.
The exhibition, titled “From Kaliningrad to Kamchatka, from the eyes of travellers” featured photos from Russia’s westernmost Baltic region to the Kamchatka Peninsula, in the east. I decided to attend simply because it was on my way home from the office.
When I arrived, the speeches had already begun. After the Russian ambassador began to make his address, I moved closer to photograph him, thinking the pictures would come in useful for stories on Turkish-Russian relations.
READ MORE: Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov shot dead in Ankara
He was speaking softly and – from what I could tell – lovingly about his homeland, stopping occasionally to allow the translator to relay his words in Turkish.
Suddenly, gunshots rang out in quick succession, followed by panicked audience members running for cover.
The ambassador’s body lay on the blood-splattered ground.
It took me a few seconds to realise what had happened: A man had died in front of me; a life had disappeared before my eyes.
I was shocked and sad but I started to take photographs, sheltering behind a wall.
The gunman was agitated. He circled the body, smashing some of the photos hanging on the wall. He shouted at everyone to stand back and pointed his gun at us. Security guards ordered us to vacate the hall and we left.
Ambulances and armoured vehicles soon arrived and the police operation was launched.
When I returned to the office to edit my photos, I was shocked to see that the gunman was actually standing behind the ambassador as he spoke.