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The 19th of December, 2016, got all the way to the early afternoon as a quiet news day. By the time it was over, areas of Brussels had been on lockdown as anti-terrorism police swept parts of the city, a man wielding a machete at a SkyTrain station in Vancouver had been shot by police, three people had been injured in a shooting at a mosque in Zurich and a body found nearby, at least 12 people had been murdered and 48 injured in a truck-ramming attack at a Christmas market in Berlin, and the Russian ambassador to Turkey had been assassinated. Later in the evening, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Latin American department was found dead at his flat in Moscow.
The coincidence of potentially terrorist-related incidents, actual or thwarted, in Belgium, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland on the same day will naturally raise questions about possible coordination, but it is far too early to come to any meaningful conclusions. The most dramatic incident was undoubtedly the assassination, on video, of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, as he attended the opening of an art exhibition at a gallery in Ankara, by an off-duty policeman.
While the assassin’s organisational ties are not yet clear, the savage conquest of Aleppo by a coalition of forces, many of them foreign, loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, was his stated motive. The anger at Russia in the Muslim world for its criminal conduct in Syria is very widespread, which means the possibility of an enraged lone individual cannot be ruled out. The Islamic State (Isis) and al-Qaeda are the most obvious candidates, not least because they would reap considerable political rewards by doing this.
In the immediate aftermath of this appalling crime there were many references to the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 that set in motion the series of events that led to the First World War. By 1914, Austria-Hungary’s most senior military adviser, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, had repeatedly recommended preventive war against Serbia, which posed various security challenges to the Empire, and the elite in Vienna largely agreed with him. The Sarajevo incident was therefore a useful pretext.
That is not the outcome yesterday’s incident will have because neither Turkey nor Russia—which have been patching up relations since earlier this year—has any incentive to use the killing in that way. To underline the point, one only has to look at the wild conspiracy theories promoted, sometimes by those connected to official circles, in both countries in the aftermath of the attack.
Read the rest at The International Business Times.