Suicide bombing at U.S. Embassy in Turkey kills 2

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 7:06 a.m.

ISTANBUL — A suicide bomb attack at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on Friday killed a security guard and wounded several people in what the White House called an act of terror.

The explosion, which also killed the attacker, occurred at an entrance used by embassy personnel and their visitors. Mustafa Akarsu, 36, a Turkish security guard stationed at an X-ray machine there, was killed, and several embassy personnel inside were wounded by flying glass as the building sustained significant damage.

A former broadcast journalist, Didem Tuncay, 38, was injured while waiting to enter the embassy, and two guards had minor wounds.

Turkish officials identified the attacker as Ecevit Sanli, 40, a member of the outlawed Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front. Designated a terrorist organization by the United States, the group has claimed responsibility for assassinations and bombings across Turkey since the 1970s.

Sanli had served prison time for attacking a military guest house in Istanbul with a flame thrower, according to reports from police and government agencies.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said a man detonated a suicide vest at the checkpoint on the outer perimeter of the embassy compound.

“He came to this first point of access to the compound ... where you have to have your ID checked; you have to go through security,” Nuland said.

The guard who was killed was standing outside the checkpoint, while the two wounded guards were standing in a more protected area, Interior Minister Muammer Guler said.

“The level of security protection at our facility in Ankara ensured that there were not significantly more deaths and injuries than there could have been,” Nuland said.

The attack drew condemnation from officials in Turkey, the United States, Britain and other nations who pledged to work together to fight terrorism.

“A suicide bombing on the perimeter of an embassy is by definition an act of terror,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “It is a terrorist attack.”

Carney said the U.S. government could not say what the motive was for the attack or who was behind it.

Hillary Clinton, in her farewell speech to State Department staff shortly after she formally resigned on Friday as secretary of State, said, “We were attacked and lost one of our foreign service nationals.”

Former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who was sworn in as incoming secretary of State, was briefed on the attack.

The embassy released a statement on its website thanking “the Turkish Government, the media, and members of the public for their expressions of solidarity and outrage over the incident.”

Turkish 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.”

“But we will stand firm, and we will overcome this together,” he said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking to reporters during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia, said he was saddened that the attack occurred in Turkey.

“We have always shown great sensitivity to the protection of foreign missions, and we will continue to do so,” Davutoglu said.

Members of Turkey's leading opposition group, the Republican People's Party (CHP), denounced the attack.

The embassy is near the Turkish Parliament on what is considered the most secure street in the capital, with many government and civilian security guards on duty around the clock. The embassies of Germany and France are nearby.

Witnesses said police were stopping people on the street outside of several nearby bars to check for identification before the attack.

Homegrown Islamic militants tied to al-Qaida have previously carried out suicide bombings in Istanbul, Turkey's bustling commercial center. In a 2003 attack on the British consulate, a suspected Islamic militant rammed an explosive-laden pickup truck into the main gate, killing 58 people, including the British consul-general.

In 2008, an attack blamed on al-Qaida-affiliated militants outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul killed three assailants and three police officers.

Ali Abaday is a special correspondentfor Trib Total Media. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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