As It Happens

Photographer who captured assassination in Turkey: 'It shouldn't be that easy to kill someone'

As many took cover or were frozen in fear, Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici kept his lens on the gunman who assassinated Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in front of his eyes.

AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici says he had a responsibility as a journalist to do his job

Photographer Burhan Ozbilici, who was attending a routine job at photography exhibition, captured these images of the shooting of Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, at a photo gallery in Ankara. (Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press)

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The infamous image looks like a still from a film; too perfect in capturing the horror to seem real.

Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici, who was attending a routine job at exhibition, captured the photo of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov being murdered.

"Every second I was trying to understand, to translate his movements in my mind." Ozblici tells As It Happens host Carol Off. 

As the gunman fired the fatal shots,Ozblici kept taking photos in a room that was otherwise "immobilized" with fear. 

"I felt so sad for this innocent man, and for my country and for humanity." - AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici

Ozblici's photo shows a man in a suit — not unlike many other security details — standing over the body of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, holding a gun and pointing dramatically to the heavens shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Great" in Arabic.)

Ambassador Karlov, 62, was mid-speech at an art gallery in Ankara when Mevlut Mert Altintas, now identified as an off-duty riot police officer, fired at least eight shots while shouting "Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria!" Altintas had been standing behind the Ambassador as he spoke.

Despite the shock he felt, he thought he had to keep capturing the scene.

"I have to do my work, that's my responsibility as a journalist," Ozbilici said.

'I was afraid, shocked'

It began as ordinary assignment. Ozbilici arrived at the photography exhibition called "From Kaliningrad to Kamchatka, from the eyes of travelers" late and so stood behind a few rows of people. He knew the ambassador was an important man and so decided he needed to get closer for better pictures. 

"Suddenly I heard this shot and the people standing between us, they disappeared, they fell on the ground," he said. "They were screaming, they were crying...panic. They were trying to hide themselves."

A child is held after the Russian Ambassador to Turkey was shot at a photo gallery in Ankara. (Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press)

But Ozbilici didn't hide.

"At the beginning I was afraid, shocked." he said. "But just after he fired six or seven shots, he shouted 'Allahu' and he started to make it a politically motivated speech."

He said that the gunman frightened witnesses with the gun but did not shoot at anyone else, which he said "secured" him enough to continue capturing the event.

He tried to read Altintas' movements, documenting everything he did.

Altintas was later killed by police in a 15-minute shoot out, according to reports. 

Watching a man die

Doing his job effectively also meant capturing the moment of a man's death; a reality he says was a horrible experience. 

"It was shocking," he said. "I felt very sad to see a man, looking very nice, calm, natural, modest —an important world player. That was the first impression I got from the Russian ambassador.  So to see a man like this killed [before] your eyes is terrible."

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks a gallery in Ankara Monday Dec. 19, 2016. A gunman opened fire on Russia's ambassador to Turkey Karlov at a photo exhibition on Monday. The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said he was hospitalized with a gunshot wound. The gunman is seen at rear on the left. (Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press)

"I felt so sad for this innocent man, and for my country and for humanity. It shouldn't be that easy to kill someone."

Only a few days before the assassination, there were protests in Turkey about Russia's support of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. Talks about Russia's future involvement were still carried out on Tuesday after Karlov's death. 

Captured chaos:

Here are some other photos that have been ingrained in the collective conscious. 

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