- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2013

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.”

‘Marxist-Lennist’ suspected

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.

“I think we need to let the Turkish side investigate,” said Mrs. Nuland. “We will be guided by that investigation in terms of what we learn about who the perpetrators were.”

“We do not know at this point who is responsible or the motivations behind the attack,” added White House spokesman Jay Carney.

In Turkey, Mr. Erdogan said that DNA testing was being conducted to identify the bomber with more certainty and that results would likely be announced on Saturday.

‘Terrorist attack’

The bombing triggered fresh memories of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The White House, which was criticized for initially downplaying the role of terrorism in the Benghazi incident, wasted no time in labeling Friday’s assault in Turkey as a terrorist attack.

Asked by a reporter if the attack by a suicide bomber in Ankara was a terrorist act, White House press secretary Jay Carney said it was “an excellent question.”

“A suicide bombing on the perimeter of an embassy is by definition an act of terror,” Mr. Carney said. “It is a terrorist attack.”

The attack featured a lone suicide bomber who detonated his explosives at a security check-point entrance inside the U.S. embassy grounds at 1:13 in the afternoon, according to Mrs. Nuland.

She said a local guard hired by the embassy was killed.