US Embassy compound in Turkey hit by 'terrorist' attack, 3 feared dead
By Richard Engel, Aziz Akyavas and Ian Johnston
A suicide bomber blew himself up at an entrance to the U.S. Embassy compound in Ankara on Friday, killing at least three people, Turkish police sources said.
The bomber got to the first X-ray machine leading to the visa section, the sources added.
U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardione told reporters that a guard at the gate was killed and a Turkish citizen was wounded in the blast, which happened at about 1:15 p.m. local time (6:15 a.m. ET), The Associated Press reported.
An AP journalist saw a body in the street outside, but it was unclear whether this was the guard or someone else.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a statement that there had been a "a terrorist blast."
U.S. officials were "working closely with the Turkish national police to make a full assessment of the damage and the casualties, and to begin an investigation," she added. "We will share more information as it becomes available,” she said.
On Sept. 11 last year, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, prompting concern about security for diplomats.
On Jan. 23, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she took responsibility for
not adequately protecting U.S. personnel in Benghazi. Her voice choked with emotion as she remembered the return of "flag-draped caskets" and putting her arms around relatives of those who died.
In Ankara Friday, Turkish television footage showed smoke rising from the area and the heavily damaged door, which led to a side street.
A call to the embassy’s main number at about 2:10 p.m. local time (7:10 a.m. ET) was not answered.
A message on the embassy’s Twitter account
at about 7:40 a.m. ET confirmed that an explosion had taken place.
“Appropriate measures were taken,” it added, saying it would provide more information when it became available.
A BBC journalist near the scene, Golnar Motevalli, said police had barricaded the road and she could see three or four ambulances and a fire truck.
She said the situation was "extremely chaotic" and that police sirens were "going off everywhere."
The Associated Press noted groups tied to al-Qaida had attacked U.S. and U.K. consulates in the past:
Homegrown Islamic militants tied to al-Qaida have carried out suicide bombings in Istanbul, killing 58, in 2003. The targets were the British consulate, a British bank and two synagogues.
In 2008, an attack blamed on al-Qaida-affiliated militants outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul left three assailants and three policemen dead.
In the November 2003 attack on the British consulate , a suspected Islamic militant rammed an explosive-laden pickup truck into the main gate, killing British Consul-General, Roger Short, and his assistant, Lisa Hallworth.
The State Department says on its website
that 15 people who claimed they were associated with al-Qaida were arrested in July 2011 for gathering explosive materials in preparation for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
It adds that this and other incidents "show a willingness on the part of some terrorist groups to attack identifiably Western targets. The possibility of terrorist attacks, from both transnational and indigenous groups, remains high."
The State Department posting said the PKK Kurdish rebel group was the "most active terrorist organization in Turkey." It said the PKK had historically targeted Turkish government and military interests, but had recently "threatened increased violent activity in Turkey’s urban areas, and there is credible information suggesting that it intends to continue targeting tourist areas as well."
Earlier this month, about 400 U.S. personnel arrived at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base
to support the deployment of a NATO Patriot missile battery to help defend the country from possible incursions by Syria’s forces during that country’s ongoing civil war.