The State Deparment said Friday that the suicide bombing targeting the U.S. embassay in the Turkish capital of Ankara could have caused significantly more damage were it not for the tight security protocols in place at the facility.
A lone suicide bomber, whom Turkish authorities have tied to a local left-wing extremist movement, died in the blast, which also claimed the life of a Turkish security guard paid by the U.S. to protect the embassy.
“The level of security protection at our facility in Ankara ensured that there were not significantly more deaths and injuries,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of the attack.
The blast occurred on the same same day that Hillary Rodham Clinton officially stepped down as the Obama administration’s secretary of state, and former Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry was sworn in to take her place.
Mrs. Clinton made reference to the attack as she appeared before a large and cheering crowd for her final departure from Foggy Bottom on Friday afternoon, saying that she had spoken with U.S. officials on the ground in Turkey and “told them how much we valued their commitment and their sacrifice.”
Appearing on Television Friday evening, Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan said the bomber had ties to a homegrown political extremist group known as the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C).
The group has carried out attacks on Turkish political and security targets since the 1970s, and has long been listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S.
Mr. Erdogan said that investigators at the bomb site had found a marking on the bomber’s head, which “clarified” that he was connected to the DHKP/C.
The group was thought to have been largely dormant during recent years. It has, however, been on the State Department’s official list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997.
The group had not claimed responsibility for the attack as of Friday evening, prompting speculation in Washington over the possibility that al Qaeda or another extremist group may have also — or alternatively — been involved.
Al Qaeda-linked extremists carried out a violent set of suicide bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2003. More than 50 people were killed in the those attacks, which targeted the British consulate, a British bank and two synagogues.
There are also believed to be al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists active in neighboring Syria, where a violent civil war has been unfolding for the past two years.
Turkey, meanwhile, is engaged in a protracted war against Kurdish separatist groups, who have claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in the nation during recent years.
Obama administration officials said they were working closely with Turkish investigators to probe Friday’s attack, and cautioned against drawing conclusions about the bomber before a full investigation has been conducted.