x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Two dead in suicide bombing at US embassy in Turkey

Turkish guard and bomber die in attack suspected to be by a Turkish leftist group.

ISTANBUL // A suicide bomber killed a Turkish guard and himself in a "terrorist attack" on the US Embassy in Ankara yesterday.

The attack drew condemnation from prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who vowed his country would stand tall against terrorism.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Muammer Guler, the interior minister, said on TV the male suicide bomber was a Turkish national and "member of an illegal leftist organisation".

The semi-official Turkish news agency Anadolu identified the bomber as Ecevit Sanli, 40, a member of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

The country's main leftist militant group, it is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the US.

Turkish state TV also reported the bomber was a DHKP-C member.

There was no immediate confirmation by authorities or the group.

News reports said the bomb went off during a security check of a visitor at the entrance area of the embassy's visa office. A female Turkish reporter was severely injured.

It was the first deadly attack on a US mission since the US ambassador to Libya, J Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in their consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi on September 11 last year.

The US state department described it as "a terrorist blast at a check point on the perimeter of our embassy compound in Ankara", but did not provide any further details.

Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the US was "working closely with the Turkish police to make a full assessment of the damage and the casualties, and to begin an investigation".

Alaadin Yuksel, the governor of Ankara, said that the bomb exploded at 1.13pm local time (3.13pm UAE) inside the embassy complex, which counts as US territory under international diplomatic rules.

Mr Erdogan denounced the attack in a televised speech shortly after the explosion.

"The suicide bomber was torn apart" by the force of the blast, he said in Istanbul, adding that attacks like the one in Ankara were directed against peace in Turkey.

"But we will stand tall, we will overcome them," Mr Erdogan said.

The DHKP-C, has killed three policemen in the past six months, Istanbul's top prosecutor Turan Colakkadi said this week.

Turkish police arrested several of its suspected supporters in nationwide raids last week.

The police action drew condemnation because several lawyers, accused of carrying messages between DHKP-C members inside and outside jails, were among those detained.

Last September, the group said it killed a policeman in a suicide bomb attack in Istanbul.

In recent weeks, Turkish nationalists have protested against the deployment of Nato missile defence systems along the border with Syria.

Last week, nationalists attacked a group of German soldiers in the southern city of Iskenderun. Authorities said the attackers had thought the Germans were US soldiers.

Turkish media yesterday also speculated about possible involvement of Al Qaeda, because the blast occurred after the reported arrest of a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden in a joint Turkish-US operation in Ankara. There was no confirmation.

In November 2003, four suicide car bombings at two Istanbul synagogues, the British consulate and the British bank HSBC killed 63 people, including Britain's consul general.

The bombings were claimed by a Turkish Al Qaeda cell.

Television footage from the scene of the blast yesterday showed ambulances in front of the grey reception building at the entrance, in a side street.

A window and a door had been blown out by the force of the explosion.

Police cordoned off the site as forensic experts moved in to look for clues. News reports said several body parts had been hurled into the street outside.

The US Embassy building is heavily protected. It is near an area where several other embassies are located, including those of Germany and France.

News reports said it was unclear how the bomber managed to pass police checkpoints in the street outside the embassy buildings.

tseibert@thenational.ae