The U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey was hit by a suicide bombing early Friday afternoon, Istanbul time, leaving two dead and at least one wounded. It appears the explosion occurred in the initial security checkpoint at the embassy.
The suicide bomber was either about to go through, or was just going through, a metal detector at the checkpoint when the explosion was triggered, killing the bomber and the Turkish security guard on duty, identified as Mustafa Akarsu. (In most U.S. embassies and consulates, initial security is provided locally, with Marines in charge of ensuring the protection of classified information.)
At least one person was badly wounded in the attack – Turkish television reporter Didem Tuncay, who was apparently waiting in line for a visa appointment. She is now in critical condition at an area hospital.
The most likely suspect appears to be a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), a ultra-nationalist organization in Turkey. Initial reports suggest the bomber was Ecevit Sanli, a DHKP/C member who had previously spent time in prison for taking part in planned attacks in Istanbul in 1997.
While initial reactions may have turned to a member of the PKK or Al-Qaeda (Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law, currently in Turkey, was recently arrested, and Turks affiliated with Al-Qaeda have been responsible for attacks before, in 2003 and 2008), a member of the DHKP/C actually makes a lot more sense. Ultra-nationalists in Turkey have no great love for the West, especially the U.S., and have often accused the Turkish government of merely acting a Western puppet state, especially with recent events in Syria.
Many Turkish ultra-nationalists have been especially incensed recently due to NATO’s deployment of patriot missile batteries in the country’s southeast, near the Syrian border. The missiles’ components came from the Netherlands and Germany and were assembled at the American air force base in Incirlik, which is periodically a point of protest for ultra-nationalists. During the missiles assemblage at Incirlik, 25 protesters were arrested, while the missiles’ arrival at the port of Iskenderun prompted ultra-nationalists to form an angry mob.
This attack is unlikely to hinder Turkish-U.S. relations. However, it is likely to prompt further discussion about security at U.S. installations abroad. Still, it is worth noting that, in technical terms, the security at the U.S. embassy worked exactly as it should. The bomber was stopped at the initial checkpoint (a good distance away from any central offices or staff at the embassy) and, being unable to make it any farther, detonated himself. While security can always be strengthened, there will nevertheless always be an initial checkpoint. And, unfortunately for people like Mustafa Akarsu, there will always have to be someone guarding it.