Three police officers and three unidentified gunmen were killed in a firefight Wednesday, July 9 outside the main gate of the US Consulate in Istanbul, the private NTV television station reported.
Witnesses told NTV that a car slowed down and stopped outside the main gate of the consulate in the suburb of Istinye. Three of the passengers got out of the car and fired at police starting a firefight that lasted between seven and eight minutes.
Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler told reporters at the scene that three attackers and one police officer were declared dead at the scene and that two police officers were later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Guler said that two police officers were wounded in the attack and were being treated for non life-threatening injuries at a local hospital.
The driver of the car reportedly fled the scene sparking a large- scale police search.
Authorities label attack a "terrorist" event
Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin touring the scene said that the attackers armed with handguns and pump-action shotguns were aged between 25 and 30 and that investigators were seeking to find whether the gunmen had any links to any known terrorist groups.
"We are treating this as a terrorist attack," Engin said at the scene.
US ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson told reporters in Ankara that all US personnel at the consulate were safe and accounted and expressed his country's sadness for the loss of Turkish lives.
He said the embassy had not received any threats in recent days and that U.S. security officials were cooperating with Turkish police to solve what he described as a "dastardly and cowardly act".
"It is inappropriate now to speculate who was responsible for this or what why they carried out this action. It is an obvious act of terrorism. Our countries will stand together to confront this as we have confronted similar problems in the past," Wilson said.
Wilson also said that he had asked for extra security at US consulates and at the embassy in Ankara.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to Tbilisi, voiced "deep regret" at the loss of life and highlighted the "very rapid and proper response" by Turkish officials.
Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay said no one had yet claimed responsibility for the incident.
First foreign attack since deadly 2003 bombing
The consulate was moved to its current high-security location in 2003 as foreign missions across the world stepped up security measures following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.
The most recent attack on a foreign mission in Turkey was in 2003 when al Qaeda militants detonated a car bomb at the British consulate in central Istanbul, and simultaneously attacked the British HSBC bank.
The British consul was killed in the attacks, which followed the bombings five days earlier of two synagogues in Istanbul. About 60 people were killed in the four blasts, the deadliest terrorist attacks in Turkey.