ISTANBUL, Turkey — A man approached a visitor's gate at the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Friday and detonated an explosives-packed vest, killing himself and a Turkish security guard and raising new fears about the protection of U.S. diplomats serving in this region.
Within hours Turkish authorities blamed the attack on a homegrown Marxist organization, and Friday evening Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the issue had "pretty much been clarified" because the bomber had been identified, by a skin mark on his head, as a former prisoner once incarcerated for domestic terrorism.
A White House official said it was too early to determine who was behind the "act of terror" and that the United States would conduct its own investigation.
On Friday, after the Ankara attack, the State Department immediately warned U.S. citizens to temporarily avoid U.S. diplomatic offices in Turkey.
Just after lunchtime, according to images captured on a security camera and reported by the Turkish television channel NTV, a man entered a security checkpoint near the consular section and began to panic as the metal detector buzzed. When he reached for his midsection, a Turkish guard yelled, "Run away, a bomb!" according to NTV. The footage then went black.
Ambulances and police rushed to the scene. A Turkish journalist on her way to have tea with the U.S. ambassador, Francis Ricciardone, was critically wounded.
Hours after the attack, Interior Minister Muammer Guler said an initial investigation had identified the bomber as having been a member of an outlawed leftist group that Erdogan later identified as the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, a Marxist-Leninist organization that was responsible for attacks on American targets in Turkey in the early 1990s.
Still, the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said in a briefing with reporters in Washington, "We do not know at this point who is responsible or the motivations behind the attack."
The group that Turkish officials blamed for the attack is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations and has mainly targeted Turkish officials and generals. It was held responsible for the assassination of a former prime minister in 1980 and a suicide attack on a police station in Istanbul in September. It also played a role in the political violence that convulsed Turkey in the late 1970s and prompted a military coup in 1980.