Deadly attack against U.S. consulate

July 9, 2008 1:18:49 PM PDT
Armed men attacked a police guardpost outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday. Turkish officials called it a terrorist attack and said three officers and three of the assailants were killed.

At least one of the attackers opened fire at the post near the consulate's main entrance at about 11 a.m., a U.S. embassy spokeswoman said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

There were no reports of casualties among American consulate employees, she said.

"There is no doubt that this is a terrorist attack," Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler said.

Three policemen "were martyred" and three attackers were killed, he said. Police were pursuing a fourth attacker who reportedly escaped in a van.

Guler said two of the attackers were Turkish nationals. A policeman and a tow-truck driver were also injured, he said.

Istanbul prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin said the attackers were armed with pistols and shotguns. Forensic teams were seen examining a shotgun on the ground.

The attack occurred right outside the high-walled consulate compound in Istanbul's Istinye district. Television footage showed four people lying on the ground at the foot of the consulate's wall before officials removed the bodies.

Yavuz Erkut Yuksel, a bystander, told CNN-Turk television the attackers emerged from a white vehicle and surprised a guard.

"One of them approached a policeman while hiding his gun and shot him in the head," Yuksel said.

The secure U.S. consulate building was built after homegrown Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida carried out suicide bombings in 2003 that targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank in Istanbul, killing 58 people.

The consulate occupies an imposing structure on a hill in Istinye, a densely residential neighborhood along the Bosporus Strait on the European side of Istanbul.

A reporter for The Associated Press who visited the consulate last week drove unimpeded past an entrance for the public and parked on a residential street two blocks away. The area directly in front of the entrance was kept clear of vehicles.

Several guards stood in separate locations outside the entrance, but weapons were not on display; Turkish civilians seeking visas and other documents sat at cafes across the street.

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Associated Press Chief of Bureau in Turkey, Christopher Torchia, and Selcan Hacaoglu and Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report. Torchia reported from Baghdad.


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