White House officials are calling Friday’s bombing outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, “an act of terror.”
Apparently learning from their mistakes following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Obama administration was quick to label Friday’s violence in Turkey a premeditated act. For days after the Benghazi incident, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died, officials insisted the crowd that converged on the compound acted spontaneously.
But this time, the lone attacker left little doubt about his intentions.
Turkish police say a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the embassy, killing himself and a Turkish guard. A Turkish female journalist and two other guards also were wounded in the blast, which went off at about 1:15 p.m. The attacker did not get inside the building.
Turkish officials blame the attack on domestic left-wing terrorists, but have given few details about the suspected group. No one has claimed responsibility so far.
But a police official told The Associated Press the bomber was most likely a member of the outlawed Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States but had been relatively quiet in recent years.
The embassy in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, is heavily protected and located near several other embassies. According to Turkish newspaper The Hurriyet, embassy staff took shelter in a “safe room” after the explosion.
U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone said the facility was secure and pledged to work with Turkish officials to continue to fight terrorism.
“From today’s event, it is clear that we both suffer from this terrible, terrible problem of today’s world,” he said. “We are determined after events like this even more to cooperate together until we defeat this problem together.”
Terrorists have targeted U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey before. In 2008, an attack blamed on al-Qaeda-affiliated militants outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul left three assailants and three policemen dead.
In September, police said a leftist militant threw a hand grenade and then blew himself up outside a police station in Istanbul, killing a police officer and injuring seven others. Police identified the bomber as a member of the DHKP-C, which has claimed responsibility for assassinations and bombings since the 1970s.
In 2008, Turkish police said they foiled a bomb plot by DHKP-C against some U.S. companies in Turkey.
Homegrown Islamic militants tied to al-Qaeda also have perpetrated attacks in Turkey. In a 2003 attack on the British consulate in Istanbul, a suspected Islamic militant rammed an explosive-laden pickup truck into the main gate, killing 58 people, including the British consul-general.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday’s attack demonstrated a need for international cooperation against terrorism: “We will stand firm and we will overcome this together.”