The suicide bomber who killed one person and wounded another today in an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara is a member of an outlawed leftist group, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan’s statement confirmed reports claiming the attacker was a 30-year-old member of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). The suspect, identified as Ecevit Şanlı, has previously spent time in prison, according to reports.
“The suicide bomber exploded the bomb right after crossing [the personnel entry] and died in the explosion. A birth mark on his head proves [his identity], but DNA tests will be carried out to make sure. It is clear that he is a member of DHKP/C. He has perpetrated such attacks before,” he said, during a live TV interview on private broadcaster Haberturk.
Erdoğan also played down claims that the attack might be related to Turkey’s position on the Syria crisis. “I don’t reach to this conclusion. You know that the DHKP/C made some other attempts lately, but Turkey is taking steps against terrorism as well,” said Erdoğan, highlighting the recent police raids against lawyers and alleged members of the leftist group.
The prime minister also said he had called U.S. Ambassador Francis Riccardone to express his condolences, and wished a speedy recovery to the journalist Didem Tuncay, who was heavily injured in the attack.
Suspect is a former convict
Suspected suicide bomber Ecevit Şanlı spent time in prison between 1997 and 2000 for attacking an Istanbul military guest house, Harbiye Orduevi, with a flame thrower.
He participated in hunger strikes while being held in Ümraniye Prison in 2000, a time when massive hunger strikes were initiated in Turkish prisons. Şanlı, who suffered from Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome, was released on probation in 2002.
Meanwhile, the security guard who also died in the attack has been identified as Mustafa Akarsu, 36, Interior Minister Muammer Güler said in a statement.
The attack destroyed the entrance to the embassy building, he added, adding that the force of the explosion left body parts strewn around the scene.
Today’s attack bears remarkable similarity to a suicide bomb attack on a police station in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed a police officer and the attacker.
The suicide bomber was later identified as İbrahim Çuhadar, who was said to be a known member of the outlawed DHKP/C. Çuhadar had previously served eight months in prison for participating in illegal demonstrations.
Seven people, including four police officers and three civilians, were also injured in the bombing at the 75.Yıl Police Station last year.
“The suicide bomber set off the explosives he was wearing after throwing a grenade into the police station, killing one police officer and wounding four others at the entry,” Istanbul police chief Hüseyin Çapkın said soon after the attack.
The dead police officer was identified as Bülent Özkan. It was learned that Özkan was preparing for his wedding, which was scheduled to take place five days after the incident.
Çuhadar reportedly passed the outer gate and walked up a flight of stairs leading to the main entrance of the police station at around 11 a.m. The man then entered through the door and stopped short of an X-ray machine placed just past the entrance. There he lobbed a hand grenade toward the police officers at the reception desk, but the device failed to explode. Özkan managed to fire two shots at Çuhadar but was unable to stop the man from detonating his explosives.
The main entrance was severely damaged in the explosion even though the police station was built with reinforced concrete instead of regular bricks, as the building was thought to be a target in the area, which saw deadly clashes between security forces and protesters in 1995.