A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at the entrance of the US Embassy in the Turkish capital on Friday, killing himself and one other person, officials said.
US Ambassador Francis Ricciardione told reporters that a guard at the gate was killed in the 1:15 p.m. blast, and a Turkish citizen was wounded.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced shortly afterwards that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. Ankara Governor Alaattin Yuksel told reporters: “There were two dead in the suicide bombing, a Turkish security guard and the bomber himself.”
Interior Minister Muammer Güler said the bomber was likely a Turkish male belonging to an outlawed leftist group, and identified the security guard who died in the attack as 36-year-old Mustafa Akarsu. Didem Tuncay, a 38-year-old former broadcast journalist, was also seriously injured in the attack, he said.
Turkish media reports identified the attacker as 30-year-old Ecevit Sanli, a member of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). The Marxist group carried out a similar suicide bombing in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district that killed a police officer and the attacker on Sept. 11, 2012, according to Hürriyet Daily News.
The bomb appeared to have exploded inside the security checkpoint at the side entrance of the embassy, but did not do damage inside the embassy itself. Footage showed that the door had been blown off its hinges and debris littered the ground and across the road. An Associated Press journalist saw a body in the street in front of an embassy side entrance.
Police swarmed the area and several ambulances were dispatched. A police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said police had examined security cameras around the embassy and had identified two people who could have been the suicide bomber.
The phones were not being answered at the embassy. “The US Embassy would like to thank the Turkish Government, the media, and members of the public for their expressions of solidarity and outrage over the incident,” it said in a statement.
The embassy building is heavily protected. It is near an area where several other embassies are located, including that of Germany and France. Police sealed off the area and journalists were being kept away.
There was no claim of responsibility, but Kurdish rebels and Islamic militants are active in Turkey. Kurdish rebels, who are fighting for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast, have dramatically stepped up attacks in Turkey over the last year.
As well, homegrown Islamic terrorists tied to al-Qaeda have carried out suicide bombings in Istanbul, killing 58, in 2003. The targets were the British consulate, a British bank and two synagogues.
In a speech given in Istanbul shortly after the bombing, Erdoğan said that “All these [attacks] are against the peace and welfare of our country. We will stand tall; we will stand strong and overcome these [attacks],” according to Hürriyet Daily News. He called for a global effort to fight terrorism.
In a missive to US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, adding that “violent acts like these remind us of the danger those who courageously represent us overseas are exposed to, and the threats by those who oppose freedom.”
Netanyahu also expressed condolences to the Turkish people.
In 2008, an attack blamed on al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists outside the US Consulate in Istanbul left three assailants and three policemen dead.
In the November 2003 attack on the British consulate, a suspected Islamic terrorist rammed an explosive-laden pickup truck into the main gate, killing British Consul-General, Roger Short, and his assistant, Lisa Hallworth.
Turkey has become a harsh critic of the regime in Syria, where a vicious civil war has left at least 60,000 people dead. The first of six Patriot missile batteries being deployed to Turkey to protect against attack from Syria was declared operational and placed under NATO command on Saturday and others were expected to be operational in the coming days.