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Terrorism Likely in Deadly Explosion Outside U.S. Embassy in Turkey

February 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
A suicide bomber set off an explosion outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, killing a security guard. Jeffrey Brown talks with Tülin Daloglu, who is on the scene in Ankara reporting for Al-Monitor, about the secular domestic terrorist group believed responsible for the attack.
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JEFFREY BROWN: For the second time in five months, a U.S. diplomatic post has been the target of a deadly assault.

A suicide bomber detonated a vest with explosives outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, today, killing himself and a security guard. The White House described it as a terrorist attack.

The explosion occurred around 1:15 p.m. local time. Afterward, police tried to hold back the crowd gathered outside the U.S. facility in the Turkish capital. Debris littered the street near a side entrance where the blast took place. Emergency workers wheeled one of the injured into an awaiting ambulance.

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone spoke to reporters outside the embassy.

FRANCIS RICCIARDONE, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey: Right now, we are all dealing with our sadness at the loss of our fellow member of our embassy. We salute his bravery, his service to Turkey and to Turkish-American friendship. Our hearts go out to his family.

JEFFREY BROWN: In Istanbul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the bombing an attack against peace in our country.

And, in Washington, the State Department’s Victoria Nuland said a series of security upgrades to the Ankara embassy saved lives.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department Spokeswoman: Where this happened was on an external perimeter access site far from the main building. It is that kind of setback, that kind of hardening, that kind of structure that we have been working on over the past 10 years that actually insured that this wasn’t far worse than it could have been.

JEFFREY BROWN: No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Turkish officials said it was the work of an outlawed domestic militant front.

A short time ago, I spoke to Tulin Daloglu in Ankara. She’s a reporter for Al-Monitor, a media Web site that covers developments in the Middle East.

Welcome to you.

Well, you arrived on the scene shortly after the explosion. Tell us what you saw.

TULIN DALOGLU, Al-Monitor: I talked to the witnesses, the neighbors here.

And people told me that there was a huge explosion. Sound was really too loud, and they said that the walls trembled in their homes and they felt that their organs had shaken. So, they immediately understood that something went terribly wrong at the U.S. Embassy, at their neighbor.

And as I looked around, I had seen that, you know, also our journalists, the Turkish correspondents here, were kind of calm and quiet, because the only injured who is now at the hospital is one of ours, a Turkish correspondent, diplomatic correspondent.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the Turkish interior minister said the bomber was a member of a far left group. What is known about this group and why they might attack a U.S. facility?

TULIN DALOGLU: Well, this group, named Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party, in Turkish, we call it, with an abbreviation, DHKP-C, was founded in 1978.

And it’s a secular terrorist organization, different from the Islamist-leaning terrorist organizations. It embraces a Marxist-Leninist ideology. It is anti-imperialist, anti-U.S. and anti-NATO, for that matter. It has attacked U.S. interests and facilities during and before and after the first Gulf War.

And — but they hadn’t done anything for a long time. So today is the first after, you know, a long break that they had attacked the U.S. Embassy here in Ankara.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, do we know how clear the evidence is that points to them? And I ask this because I have seen some terrorism experts here in the U.S. questioning about whether the Turkish government has rushed to judgment, I guess, in pinpointing this group, particularly because there are any number of groups operating in Turkey capable of such violence.

TULIN DALOGLU: True, there are a number of terrorist organizations, from, you know, extremist leftist, to Kurdish, to Islamist terrorist organizations, operating in Turkey.

I wouldn’t go into speculating further than what the Turkish authorities have provided to the Turkish media. And we’re hoping that the coming days, we are going to have more details as to why this happened and why the DHKP-C or whoever targeted the U.S. Embassy today had done so. We don’t know really much detail tonight.

JEFFREY BROWN: Tulin Daloglu is in Ankara for us tonight. Thanks so much.

TULIN DALOGLU: Thank you so much.