White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday that the suicide bombing of a U.S. embassy in Turkey was “by definition a terrorist attack.”
“The attack itself was clearly an act of terror,” Carney said at his daily press briefing.
Later in the day, Turkish authorities identified the suicide bomber as Ecevit Shanli, a member of an outlawed Marxist militant group called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party–Front. 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.”
President Obama came under fire during the presidential campaign from Republicans, who charged that he hesitated to call the Sept. 11 attack on an American consulate in Benghazi a terrorist attack. Republicans suggested that the administration wanted to avoid classifying the siege, which left four Americans dead, as an act of terror for political reasons.
In remarks on Sept. 12, Obama said “no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.”
But Obama and other administration officials suggested later that the attack may have spontaneously grown out of protests, and did not specifically say that the Benghazi attack was an “act of terror” for two weeks.
Julian Pequet contributed to this report
Updated at 2:16 p.m.