Turkey: U.S. Embassy Suicide Bomber Was Leftist Released from Jail

(Photo: Burhan Ozbilici, AP)
ISTANBUL, Turkey — The suicide bomber who attacked the U.S. Embassy on Friday in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing one Turkish security guard along with the bomber, was a member of an outlawed leftist group, the Turkish government said. The explosion went off at the entrance used by embassy personnel and their visitors, after a lone suicide bomber passed through the X-ray machine, Turkish news media reported.
News reports said that there is no damage inside the embassy and that all personnel have been moved to safe rooms inside the building. Turkish television footage showed a door blown out and pieces of the wall around it scattered in front of the entrance.

Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Güler told reporters that the attacker was Ecevit Sanli, a member of an outlawed leftist group that news media reported as being the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). The suspect in the attack spent eight months in prison for attending illegal demonstrations, Turkish news media said.

Turkish police in the past week arrested 55 leftists of various stripes including members of DHKP/C, an anti-American Marxist group that had attacked Americans in the past.

"If the suicide bomber was DHKP/C, this could be retaliation for these arrests," said Ross Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey who now heads the Eurasia program at the Atlantic Council.

Turkish counterterrorism authorities have gone after DHKP/C aggressively in past years, which is part of the reason the group has been marginalized, Wilson said. DHKP/C opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq during the first Gulf War. It also took responsibility for the murders of at least two Americans working in Turkey in 1991.

The victims were retired U.S. Air Force officer John Gandy, who was shot to death in his insurance office, and Bobbie Eugene Mozelle of Detroit, a civilian working at a U .S.-Turkish air base in southern Turkey.

The Turkish government did not say whether the suspect may have also been involved with other terrorist groups, such as affiliates of al-Qaeda.

The Turkish daily newspaper Sabah posted a shaky video that was taken at the Ankara U.. embassy shortly before the area was closed off, showing Turkish police officials angrily asking that filming be stopped. Police said they suspected a second bomb, which is why they blocked off the area.

The Vatan newspaper, whose reporter witnessed the explosion, said the blast was severe and damaged the surrounding buildings and cars nearby.

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, expressed his sorrow.

"I am offering my condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives, and my best wishes to everyone at the American Embassy and the foreign ministry," he said. "Our whole security apparatus is working full force on finding the ones responsible for this attack, and we are hoping to clarify the matter shortly."

The attack destroyed the entrance to the embassy building, he said, adding that the force of the explosion left body parts strewn around the scene. Didem Tuncay, a 38-year-old former broadcast journalist, was seriously injured in the attack, Güler said.

Turkey, a member of NATO, has come under attack from a number of groups operating on its territory including Kurdish separatists, leftists and Islamist terrorists, with the last major attack in Ankara in 2007 blamed on a solo suicide bomber: It killed nine people and injured 120.

Contributing: Yasemin Ergin in Hamburg; Oren Dorell in Washington, D.C. (http://www.usatoday.com)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07