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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.
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, 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.

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.

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