Suicide bombing kills a guard at U.S. Embassy in Turkish capital
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ISTANBUL -- A suicide bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Friday, detonating himself inside a security entrance to the compound in a blast that officials said killed a Turkish guard and wounded a visiting Turkish journalist. The Obama administration called the attack an act of terror and warned American citizens to temporarily avoid its diplomatic missions in Turkey.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the bomber was a known member of an outlawed leftist radical group in Turkey, suggesting that the motive may have differed from the Islamist militant hostility toward the United States that has been a theme of other attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in recent months. But U.S. officials said the motives and those responsible for the Ankara bombing remained under investigation.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, "The attack itself is clearly an act of terror." Vice President Joe Biden, who was attending a security summit meeting in Germany at the time, also said the bombing was "obviously as a terrorist attack on our embassy in Ankara."
Alaattin Yuksel, governor of Ankara, told reporters in televised remarks that the explosion happened at a security entrance inside the embassy grounds. Standing with U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., Mr. Yuksel spoke in front of the apparently undamaged main embassy building, some distance from the bombing site. News photographs of the explosion site just inside the compound showed extensive damage to a squat one-story building where visitors are checked by security guards and an X-ray machine.
Turkish news media said preliminary investigations by security officials said the bomber might have panicked while going through security controls and detonated a suicide belt prematurely. NTV, a private television broadcaster, said embassy security cameras had shown the assailant entering and panicking as he walked through an X-ray machine.
The other fatality in the blast was identified as Mustafa Akarsu, 47, one of the Turkish security guards at the embassy. The wounded victim was identified as Didem Tuncay, 39, a former foreign news reporter for NTV, who had been en route to a meeting with Mr. Ricciardone at the time. Ms. Tuncay was taken to Numune Hospital in Ankara, where officials said the right side of her face had been hurt in the blast and that she was in serious condition.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that several other embassy staff members, American and Turkish, were treated for minor injuries from flying glass, and that security improvements at the compound in recent years had prevented more casualties.
U.S.-Turkish relations are strong and friendly, but Turkey has not been immune to anti-American attacks in recent years. In 2008, three gunmen attacked security guards outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul in a shootout that left the attackers and three police dead.
After the suicide bombing, the U.S. Embassy posted an emergency message on its website advising U.S. citizens not to visit the embassy or the consulates in Istanbul or Adana until further notice. It also advised Americans traveling or residing in Turkey "to be alert to the potential for violence, to avoid those areas where disturbances have occurred and to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings."
Ankara police sealed off the roads around the embassy compound after the blast, witnesses said.
First Published February 2, 2013 12:00 am