Early reports indicate a suicide bomber struck at the US Embassy.
By Menekse Tokyay and Frederike Geerdink for Southeast European Times in Istanbul and Diyarbakir -- 01/02/13
Rescuers take on a victim of a blast outside the US Embassy in Ankara to a waiting ambulance on Friday (February 1st). The force of the explosion damaged nearby buildings in the Cankaya neighborhood where many other state institutions and embassies are also located. [AFP]
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for an explosion Friday outside the US Embassy in Ankara that reportedly killed at least two people and injured two others. Authorities said it appeared to be a suicide attack.
Initial reports indicated the blast occurred as the bomber was passing through a security checkpoint at an entrance to the embassy complex, killing a security guard. The bomber was also killed. State-run TRT reported that the attacker was a 30-year-old member of the outlawed Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C)
"Above all terrorism is one of several problems today, it's only an attempt to prevent Turkey’s growth and slow down its progress," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
"We should work together in all areas of the world to fight extensions of terrorism," he said. "Security forces are investigating, until the facts come out we won't make any statements. We will stand up against all of this, we will be one and together. We will not have our martyrs roll over in their graves, we won't make any attempt to let you down."
The explosion took place at an entrance to the complex used by embassy workers and their visitors, according to CNN in Turkey. The network also reported the blast was detonated near where visitors are examined by an X-ray machine and that the guard who was killed was operating the machine.
Emergency crews, including explosives experts, were at the scene.
A ruling party official, Tourism and Culture Minister Omer Celik, offered condolences to the victims on Twitter. "We are strongly condemning the attack towards the US Embassy," he wrote.
US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told reporters outside the embassy US and Turkish authorities were investigating the blast. Ricciardone also expressed condolences to the families of the bombing victims.
Gokhan Bacık, security analyst from Gaziantep-based Zirve University, told SETimes that the attack is significant.
"Especially when we take this issue from broader perspective of Turkey's current national and international agenda, those who realised this attack want to say something," he said. "Turkey is passing through a critical threshold when dealing with its internal and external problems. There are currently negotiations with PKK while with the deployment of Patriot missiles could have created some … reaction."
The attack was condemned throughout the region.
Police and forensic experts work at the site of a blast outside the US Embassy in Ankara on Friday (February 1st). [AFP]
"Terrorist attacks such as this in Ankara are part of the anti-Western logic being built from certain movements that come mainly from the Middle East," Burim Ramadani, a Kosovo MP and security analyst, told SETimes. "The United States and the other countries from the West are the countries that are investing extremely a lot in the democratisation of the world.
Therefore, the logic of the terrorist attacks against them is unacceptable, condemnable and bad. The fight against terrorism should not stop because the price of the war against terrorism is lower than losing this war."
On an official visit to Belgrade, Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed sorrow.
"It is sad that such an attack took place in our country. We have always been very sensitive towards the security of the foreign embassies in our country together with our police force," Davutoglu said.
Davutoglu expressed his condolences to the families of the people who lost their lives and stated that they would be in touch with American authorities.
"Our security department is working intensely to find those responsible and shed light to the issue" he said.
According to embassy personnel, there was no damage inside the embassy, NTV reported.
Photos and television footage showed damage to an exterior doorway and the adjacent wall. Debris was strewn across the nearby street.
Ankara authorities quickly sealed off the area near the blast site. The heavily protected embassy is in an area where other embassies are located and security was tightened to help ward off a second attack, including and the use of police helicopters.
Ankara's governor and police chief also were at the bombing scene.
A Turkish citizen was among the injured, the BBC reported.
Mehmet Yegin, analyst at International Strategic Research Organisation USAK in Ankara, said security at the embassy was strong.
"I don’t think this blast necessarily points to any structural problem with the security of the American Embassy in Ankara," he told SETimes. "Of course, terrorist organizations keep trying to carry out attacks. Ten attacks might be prevented by good intelligence, the 11th slips through. This is one of the missed ones."
The blast also may restart discussions of moving the embassy, which is in a residential area, Yegin said.
The embassy also issued a brief statement. "The US Embassy would like to thank the Turkish government, the media, and members of the public for their expressions of solidarity and outrage over the incident," it said.
The blast will not harm US-Turkey relations, Ricciardone also said.
Also, the Hurryiet Daily News reported there were reports of a power outage at the embassy entrance when the bombing occurred.
Turkey has been fighting terrorism for 40 years against leftist extremists, the PKK and Islamic fundamentalists.
In July 2008, gunmen suspected of affiliation with al-Qaeda opened fire on the US consulate in Istanbul's police checkpoint. Turkish policemen guarding the mission fired back, aided by two traffic policemen. Those two officers, and one officer stationed at the checkpoint, died. The police killed three of the gunmen in the exchange, which reportedly lasted for five or six minutes.
In 2003, four bombs exploded outside synagogues, the HSBC building and the British Embassy. Dozens were killed and hundreds more injured.
The attack on the US embassy is not the first in the region. Last September, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other officials were killed in a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
An October 2011 shooting at the US Embassy in Sarajevo was carried out by Mevlid Jasarevic of Novi Pazar, who arrived outside the embassy aboard a tram and began firing at the building with an assault rifle, triggering a lock down inside. He wounded a policeman guarding the embassy, but no one inside was injured.
In 2008, protesters set the US embassy in Belgrade ablaze during a riot protesting Kosovo's independence. Several people were arrested and charged with committing acts against general security and "causing general danger," said Vlado Djordjevic, a senior official with the prosecutor's office.
In January 2007, a powerful explosion rocked the US embassy in Athens. The attack, described as the most serious against the US mission in nearly 11 years, was being attributed to a left-wing group calling itself Revolutionary Struggle.
Correspondent Linda Karadaku in Pristina contributed to this report.