News / Europe

    Deadly Blast at US Embassy in Ankara Kills 2

    U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone (L, with white hair) speaks to media outside of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, February 1, 2013.
    U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone (L, with white hair) speaks to media outside of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, February 1, 2013.
    A suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the U.S. embassy complex in the Turkish capital, Ankara, killing himself and a Turkish guard.

    A reporter for VOA's Turkish service said the guard was killed near an X-ray machine at a checkpoint. The reporter said security cameras were not working at the time because the power had been down in the area.  

    An embassy employee told VOA the embassy was put under lockdown and its staff sent to safe rooms after the attack.  

    Police cordoned off the area, where several other embassies are located. U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone thanked the Turkish security forces for a quick response.

    "Right now we are all dealing with our sadness at the loss of our fellow member of our embassy," said Ricciardone.  "We salute his bravery, his service to Turkey and to Turkey-American friendship. Our hearts go out to his family.''

    Turkish media said Didem Tuncay, a well-known television personality and former anchor, was wounded in the blast and is in intensive care.  She is a veteran diplomatic and parliament reporter who is also known for her high-profile interviews.

    The attack is the second on U.S. diplomatic offices in Turkey in five years.  In 2008, three gunmen and three policemen were killed in an attack outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.

    U.S. embassy in Ankara, TurkeyU.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey
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    U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey
    U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's suicide attack, but Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said preliminary information from police indicated that the bomber was likely linked to a domestic left-wing militant group.  

    Ambassador James Jeffrey, who served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2008 to 2010, said Turkish authorities believe the bomber was a member of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, a small group that has attacked American facilities repeatedly in the past.

    He said the embassy in Ankara is considered a "higher than normal threat post" and that the attack likely was not in retaliation for any recent incidents in the region.

    "Every terrorist attack that I've looked at, and that's in the hundreds, has involved meticulous planning, observation of the target, preparations and such that all takes time," said Jeffrey. "And if it was this group, they are the least likely terrorist organization in the entire Middle East to respond to Israelis bombing Syria or something that happens in Egypt. These guys are part of the European, Marxist, urban world view of the 1970's. They are the most secular, I mean, it just isn't their world."

    Turkey, US united against 'terror'

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the bombing and called on the world to unite against terrorists.

    White House spokesman Jay Carney also condemned the blast and immediately labeled it terrorism.

    “A suicide bombing on the perimeter of an embassy is, by definition, an act of terror. It is a terrorist attack,” he said.

    Carney added that Turkey is one of America's strongest allies in the region and the attack will only strengthen the U.S. and Turkey's resolve to counter terrorists threats.

    Friday's attack is the second on U.S. diplomatic offices in Turkey in five years. In 2008, three gunmen and three policemen were killed in an attack outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.

    • Rescuers take a victim of a blast outside the US Embassy in Ankara to an awaiting ambulance, February 1, 2013.
    • A general view shows police and forensic experts working at the site of a blast outside the US Embassy in Ankara, February 1, 2013.
    • People stand outside the entrance of the US embassy in Ankara after a blast killed a security guard and wounded several other people, February 1, 2013.
    • Emergency personnel are seen in front of a side entrance of the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, February 1, 2013.
    • Emergency personnel in front of a side entrance of the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, February 1, 2013.
    • Medics carry an injured woman on a stretcher to an ambulance after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at the entrance of the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Turkey, February 1, 2013.

    Past threats

    U.S. embassy officials have been on alert since terrorists killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, at the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11. Earlier that day, anti-American protesters angry about a U.S.-made film about the Prophet Muhammad stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Yemenis offended by that film also broke into the U.S. embassy compound in Sana'a.

    Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi prompted her to take urgent steps to improve security at diplomatic posts worldwide.

    Clinton said she has responded to those incidents by asking for hundreds of additional Marine security guards to be sent to vulnerable diplomatic posts. She testified in a Senate hearing last week that she has designated more than 20 U.S. missions around the world as high-risk sites requiring tighter security.   

    A labor union that represents American diplomats told VOA that sending more Marines to guard high-risk missions is a positive step.

    "Having them there in an emergency can also buy you time and can certainly help you to prevail or escape or minimize the damage, so we welcome that," said American Foreign Service Association president Susan Johnson. "But the Marines are not out there yet."

    However, some American diplomats worry that new security rules ordered by Washington also could make it harder for their counterparts to do their jobs.

    Johnson said many diplomats have been speaking up in favor of flexibility.

    “Benghazi is bringing the issue to the forefront. I am seeing a bit more pushback from the Foreign Service against calls to eliminate all risk, not travel anywhere and get 64 permissions to do so," she said.

    Additional reporting by Dorian Jones in Istanbul and Michael Lipin in Washington.

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her bylines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Juan Lopez from: California
    February 02, 2013 12:29 PM
    Your headline implies that the value of the two lives was equal. I find that objectionable. Too politically correct for me.

    by: Anonymot from: Italy
    February 02, 2013 9:26 AM
    "... September 11. Earlier that day, anti-American protesters angry about a U.S.-made film about the Prophet Muhammad stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo."

    We know you are the U.S. government media machine, but for you to still be proposing this idiotic lie that sank the SOS candidacy of Susan Rice is pretty unpardonable.

    by: annl from: sk
    February 02, 2013 2:04 AM
    What a sad! it wasn't right way killing or being killed by a bomb explosion if whatever their goal is.

    by: Shintoh from: Japan
    February 01, 2013 10:37 PM
    The fanatic was too naive to do that ridiculous act... Islamic extremists don't give any good aspiration to such naive people, but suicide, even though leaders of the extremists are still peacefully alive with their families. Islamic young people! Before going to suicide attack, think twice! You just have been taken in by extremists!! Learn and learn as if you were to live forever.

    by: James Simpson from: USA
    February 01, 2013 5:46 PM
    To the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front,

    IF you are following the ideals of communism and socialism, terrorism is not the way. American and Turkish resolve will destroy the malcontents that do not bring the light of humanity to the world.

    Go with God.

    by: Iris from: Boulder, CO
    February 01, 2013 4:07 PM
    how many Israeli's have attacked an American facility. How many Israeli's have been homicide bombers.
    In Response

    by: Samantha Holborn from: USA
    February 01, 2013 11:38 PM
    what a silly question... Israel and the US are one and the same!!! Israel is part of the American heartland... the two are inseparable... and i love it.... and proud of it just as well

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