Turkey: US embassy suicide bomber was member of outlawed leftist group

Today's bombing of the US embassy in Ankara, which Turkey has blamed on an outlawed leftist group, comes amid warnings that Turkey could soon face jihadist spillover from Syria.

Burhan Ozbilici/AP
Emergency personnel are seen in front of a side entrance at the US Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, after a suspected suicide bomber detonated an explosive device, Friday Feb. 1, 2013. The bomb appeared to have exploded inside the security checkpoint at the entrance of the visa section of the embassy. A police official said at least two people are dead.

A suicide bomber targeted the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, today, killing one Turkish guard and destroying a fortified embassy entrance.

There was no reported damage to the embassy building itself and no immediate claim of responsibility. Turkish television news stations showed ambulances at work and a smashed entrance door.

State television reported police saying the bomber was a member of an outlawed leftist organization, the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C), which has conducted similar small-impact attacks against US, NATO and official Turkish targets for decades. Members of the Marxist-Leninist group were recently arrested by Turkish security forces, which, along with the US, considers the DHKP-C to be a terrorist group. 

Turkish media reported that the bomber was passing through an X-ray machine when he detonated his explosives. Hurriyet Daily News reported "claims" that "security cameras were not recording at the moment of the blast due to a power outage in the area."

Turkey has been the scene of numerous attacks against Western targets in the past, some carried out by Al Qaeda. The attack comes as Turkey and the US become increasingly embroiled in the uprising in Syria, prompting warnings of fallout attacks from that conflict.

The United States, along with NATO-ally Turkey, has been clandestinely assisting rebels opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a conflict that has seen 60,000 deaths in 22 months. Among the most effective frontline forces fighting Mr. Assad in Syria is Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist militant group that was recently listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organization.

Noting the attack last month by Islamists in Algeria against Western oil workers, Hurriyet columnist Nihat Ali Ozcan warned last week about possible strikes in Turkey and an "asymmetric struggle that is bound to continued into a new phase."

"The dispersal of ideas, arms, militias and combat experience in Libya is likely to repeat in Syria," Mr. Ozcan wrote on Jan. 24. "In the near future, the West and Turkey will have to face a serious Jihadist challenge.... Turkey is full of Western targets of the kind that whets the Jihadist appetite."

Turkey has also waged its own fight against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought Turkish forces for decades for greater rights for ethnic Kurds. The PKK and more recently violent offshoot groups have been responsible for numerous bombings across the country. Turkey, the US, and the European Union all consider the PKK a terrorist group, and US intelligence has in recent years helped Turkey target PKK bases in northern Iraq with real-time data.

Adding to the mix of initial speculation today, was that the attack was somehow connected to the recent arrest in Ankara of the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden. Milliyet newspaper reported that "Suleyman M" was arrested at a hotel in Ankara, after a tip-off to Turkish intelligence from the US. He reportedly had arrived on a fake Saudi passport, and had spent years in Iran after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Among the most spectacular attacks in Turkey in the past decade were four November 2003 truck bombs targeting the British HSBC Bank and British consulate, and two synagogues, all in Istanbul. Sixty-seven people died and about 700 were wounded in those attacks.

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