Turkish authorities have identified the suicide bomber who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Ankara as Ecevit Shanli, a member of an outlawed Marxist militant group called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party–Front.
The early-afternoon attack killed a security guard and wounded a Turkish citizen. The group, formed in the 1970s, believes that the Turkish government is controlled by “western imperialists.”
James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, told reporters in a conference call that the group is not believed to have ties to Islamic militants operating in the region. It has targeted government officials and U.S. companies in the past, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Citibank, and murdered an American insurance executive in Istanbul in 1991.
“If it was this group, they are the least likely terrorist organization in the entire Middle East to respond to the Israelis storming Syria or something happening in Egypt and so forth. These guys are part of the European, Marxist, urban worldview of the 1970s,” Jeffrey said. “This is the world of guys with beards and coffee houses on the Rive Gauche in Paris.”
He added that the attack was likely planned long in advance. Some experts, however, have suggested the group sometimes acts as a subcontractor to other groups, leaving open the possibility of links to Islamist militants or U.S. foes Iran or Syria.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara on Friday thanked the Turkish police and government for their quick response to the attack.
“At approximately 13:15 on Feb. 1, there was an explosion at the U.S. Embassy,” the embassy said in a statement. “Appropriate measures have been taken by the Turkish National Police who are now investigating the incident.
"The U.S. Embassy would like to thank the Turkish Government, the media, and members of the public for their expressions of solidarity and outrage over the incident.”
The attack comes in the wake of a wave of attacks and demonstrations at U.S. missions in Muslim countries around the world on Sept. 11, fueled in part by a U.S.-made anti-Islam video posted on YouTube. Those attacks sparked outrage about the poor security provided by local law enforcement in Egypt and in Benghazi, Libya, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the bombing in Turkey “is yet another stark reminder of the constant terrorist threat against U.S. facilities, personnel, and interests abroad.”
“Coming after Benghazi, it underscores the need for a comprehensive review of security at our diplomatic posts,” he said. “The Committee stands ready to assist the State Department in protecting our diplomats.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the embassy's security had been upgraded over the past decade, helping contain the damage from Friday's attack. She said Turkey is one of the embassies that would quickly see additional security if Congress approves the State Department's pending request for funding.