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Turkish terror concern

Thomas Seibert, Istanbul / alsFebruary 3, 2013

Following the suicide bombing at the US embassy in Ankara, Turkish authorities are warning of the danger of further terrorist attacks. Media reports are also saying that the investigation trail leads back to Germany.

People stand outside the entrance of the US embassy in Ankara on February 1, 2013 after a blast killed two security guards and wounded several other people. Copyright: AFP/Getty Images
Image: Getty Images/AFP

Wearing a vest filled with explosives and carrying an automatic pistol, Ecevit Sanli posed in front of two flags depicting a hammer and sickle and the red star of the Communists, his left hand clenched around a switch with a red button - the very red button he would later push down at the reception gate of the American embassy in Ankara shortly after the photograph was taken.

The photograph of Sanli is part of the claim of responsibility announced on a website by the left-extremist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) for the Ankara attack on February 1. In its announcement, the DHKP-C insults the United States, calling the country a "monster" that is "directly responsible" for "every drop of blood" that has flowed in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. In addition, the attack by the DHKP-C organization, which is classified as a terror organization in Turkey, the United States and the European Union, was directed at the government under Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who serves as a "minion" of the United States, the group claimed.

Contempt and warning

According to Turkish media reports, Sanli had posed as a courier to gain access to the tightly secured US embassy. At the security checkpoint at the gateway to the embassy, Sanli detonated six kilograms of TNT he was carrying on his person as well as a hand grenade. One security guard died in the attack, and a journalist on her way to meet American ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, was severely wounded.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan Copyright: Larry Downing/REUTERS
The DHKP-C called Erdogan (left, shown with US President Obama), a 'minion' of the United StatesImage: Reuters

The bombing clearly refuted the American claim that US missions abroad were protected against attacks, the DHKP-C taunted in its claim of responsibility. The United States had stepped up security at diplomatic missions following the riot outside of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, which claimed four Americans' lives, including that of the US ambassador to Libya.

Sanli's suicide bombing was not the last of its kind, the left-extremists warned, adding that the United States should withdraw Patriot missile systems officially requested by Turkey following missiles fired from Syria landing on Turkish soil. The DHKP-C also sent a warning to the Turkish government, saying all precautionary measures were futile. Media reports said that security authorities were able to thwart attacks on Erdogan planned by the DHKP-C in 2008 and 2010.

A Syria connection?

With its reference to the Patriot missiles, the DHKP-C group aligns itself with the protests of leftist, Islamist and nationalistic groups against Erdogan's policy toward Syria. Nationalists recently attacked a few German soldiers - whom they apparently mistook for US troops - near the border with Syria.

Commentator Deniz Zeyrek reminded readers in the Sunday, February 3, 2013, edition of "Radikal" that the DHKP-C worked with the Syrian regime back in the 1990s. According to Zeyrek, this cooperation continues to this day, and has gained a whole new dimension in the Syrian civil war, in which Turkey supports the opposition. According to reports from the secret service, Syrian President Bashar Assad has recently provided economic and logical support to leftist groups, Zeyrek said.

Demonstrations against the Patriot missiles in Turkey Copyright: Umit Bektas/Reuters
Demonstrations against the Patriot missiles have been held in TurkeyImage: Reuters

Suicide bomber spent time in Germany

What is clear is that the US embassy attack was meticulously planned. According to media reports, Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Güler said Sanli had traveled to Germany in 2001, after being released from prison in Turkey. He had managed to enter the country with false documents via Greece.

Germany has viewed the DHKP-C as an organization that is losing in power. In their latest report, German intelligence agents concluded - following several raids on the group - that it was questionable just "how long the DHKP-C would be capable of compensating for the deficits and vacancies in its leadership and organization."

Should it turn out that the attack in Ankara was actually concocted in Germany, as some Turkish newspapers claim, that analysis will have to be reviewed. But the DHKP-C is not the only radical group in Turkey to plan and perform violent acts. Current efforts to put an end to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict could also lead to an increased risk of attacks, wrote columnist Fikret Bila, who is known to have excellent contacts in the government and among security forces, in the "Milliyet" newspaper.

Possible tie to Turkish-Kurdish conflict

The murder of three Kurdish activists in Paris on January 9 was viewed as a sign that radical forces want to prevent a peace agreement between the Turkish state and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels. In his article, Bila also wrote that there were groups who profit from the nearly 30-year Turkish-Kurdish conflict - through drug smuggling or human trafficking.

A Turkish soldier searchs for possible roadside mines while patroling in the southeastern Turkish province of Sirnak Copyright: Landov/Xinhua/dpa
Turkish soldiers patrol in Kurdish regions of TurkeyImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Like Bila, Güngör Mengi, head commentator of "Vatan" newspaper, also foresees more violent attacks. The unrest in the Middle East, growing anti-Americanism in the region, and the clear partisanship of Ankara with regard to Syria make Turkey a potential target for terrorism, Mengi wrote following the attack in Ankara. "We have to be prepared," he added. "Are we?"