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Embassy bomber had been in prison on terrorism charge

| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 7:58 p.m.
Francis J. Ricciardone, the American Ambassador to Turkey, comforts a relative of the Mustafa Akarsu, an embassy security guard killed when a suicide bomber struck the American Embassy in the Turkish capital on Friday, during Akarsu's funeral in Ankara, Turkey, on Saturday. AP
AFP/Getty Images
The Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, a Turkey-based radical Marxist-Leninist group, reportedly claimed responsibility Embassy blast and identified the bomber as Alisan Sanli. AFP | Getty Images

ANKARA, Turkey — The suicide bomber who struck the U.S. Embassy in Ankara spent several years in prison on terrorism charges but was released on probation after being diagnosed with a hunger strike-related brain disorder, officials said Saturday.

The bomber, identified as 40-year-old leftist militant Ecevit Sanli, killed himself and a Turkish security guard on Friday, in what U.S. officials said was a terrorist attack. Sanli was armed with enough TNT to blow up a two-story building and detonated a hand grenade, officials said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that police believe the bomber was connected to his nation's outlawed leftist militant group Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C. And on Saturday DHKP-C claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on a website linked to the group. It said Sanli carried out the act of “self-sacrifice” on behalf of the group.

The group called itself “immortal” and said, “Down with imperialism and the collaborating oligarchy.” But it gave no reason for attacking the U.S. Embassy. The authenticity of the website was confirmed by a government terrorism expert who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with rules that bar government employees from speaking to reporters without prior authorization.

Turkey's private NTV television, meanwhile, said police detained three people on Saturday who may be connected to the U.S. Embassy attack during operations in Ankara and Istanbul. Two of the suspects were being questioned by police in Ankara, while the third was taken into custody in Istanbul and was being brought to Ankara.

NTV, citing unidentified security sources, said one of the suspects is a man whose identity Sanli allegedly used to enter Turkey illegally, while the second was suspected of forging identity papers. There was no information about the third suspect.

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