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Saturday, 2 February 2013

Suicide Bomber Targets U.S. Embassy in Turkey

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Suicide Bomber Targets U.S. Embassy in Turkey
Clean Media Correspondent

ISTANBUL, Feb 01 (CMC) Local security guard was killed and several people wounded on Friday in a suicide bombing at the U.S. embassy in Ankara, in the first deadly assault on an American target in Turkey since 2008.

Ambulances and fire engines rushed to the capital's downtown Cankaya district, just a few blocks from the Parliament, while police cordoned off the area in case of a secondary explosion. Television footage showed an embassy door blown off its hinges and debris strewn around the heavily fortified district.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Turkey's government said the bomber was likely connected to a domestic left-wing militant group, which has previously conducted brazen attacks against Turkish security forces and government buildings.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack demonstrated a need for international cooperation against terrorism and was aimed at disturbing Turkey's "peace and prosperity."

The American embassy said in a statement that it was working with Turkish authorities to investigate the blast and warned U.S. citizens to avoid traveling close to diplomatic missions in Turkey.

In Washington, the White House immediately declared the blast a terrorist attack, extending condolences to the family of the Turkish guard who was killed and to those injured. "A suicide bombing on the perimeter of an embassy is by definition an act of terror," said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. "It is a terrorist attack."

He added that U.S. officials didn't know who was behind the attack, but praised cooperation from Ankara. "Turkey remains one of our strongest partners in the region, a NATO ally," Mr. Carney said. "We have worked shoulder to shoulder with the Turks to counter terror threats… and this will only strengthen our resolve."

Analysts said although it remained unclear who was responsible for the bombing, early evidence suggested the operation bore little resemblance to last year's deadly attack by Islamist militants against a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

"This attack looks amateurish and not very well organized. It seems very different from the Benghazi operation," said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat in Istanbul, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Turkey's interior minister, Muammer Guler, said that although no group had claimed responsibility for the attack, law enforcement authorities had information the bomber was a member was a Turkish man in his 30s who had been previously jailed on terrorism charges and was a known member of the outlawed leftist group, the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C.

The group, which wants a socialist state and is vehemently anti-American, according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. The DHKP-C has been relatively quiet in recent years, but has used suicide bombers in the past, including in an attempt on a police station in September, in which a policeman died along with the attacker.

Analysts said that militant leftist groups, although marginal, have mobilized against Ankara's cooperation with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and Washington during the Syria crisis. Some 50 alleged members of the organization, including nine lawyers who have represented it, were detained in a police operation last month.

Turkish media reported that DHKP-C members earlier this month assaulted German troops they mistook for U.S. soldiers who were accompanying a Patriot-missile battery in southern Turkey set to be deployed along the Syrian border next week.

"Although such groups represent a marginal political current, they could have an outsized impact. Iranian and Russian media have covered these incidents extensively in order to feed an anti-NATO slant and increase Ankara's political costs for supporting the Syrian opposition," said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute, a think tank. "This narrative could spur further unrest in Turkey, amplifying perceptions of instability."

Turkey has been attacked by a diverse number of extremist groups in recent years.

The U.S. moved its consulate in Istanbul to a safer location on top of a hill from a busy and cramped downtown district after a 2003 al-Qaeda attack on the U.K. consulate a few blocks away. In four bombings during November 2003, the terrorist organization targeted two synagogues, the British consulate and the local headquarters of HSBC HSBA.LN +0.40% bank, killing 67 people.

In 2008, three Turkish nationals fired on the policemen outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, killing three officers. All three assailants were shot dead on the scene. The attackers were initially speculated to be al-Qaeda members, but local authorities never confirmed the reports, saying only that they were terrorists.

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