ISTANBUL, (Reuters) – Three policemen and three gunmen were killed in an armed attack on the United States consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday, the city’s governor said.
A witness said the attackers drove a car up to the high-walled compound situated outside Istanbul city centre and overlooking the Bosphorus waterway. Three jumped out as the car halted and began firing at police who approached.
Governor Muammer Guler said one of the police officers had died at the scene in a gunbattle lasting several minutes. Two had died of their wounds at a nearby hospital.
Two other people were also injured.
Television images showed paramedics carrying out heart massage on one of those lying on the ground. The shirts of one of the men was ripped open. Blood was flowing from the head of another person. “They (assailants) were four people. Three of them got out of the car and fired at the police. I saw them dead afterwards lying on the ground and many more dead among the police,” Enis Yilmaz, who was going to the consulate for a visa application, told Reuters. He said the other person drove off in a vehicle.
One of the dead police officers was working at the consulate while the other two were traffic officers.
Ulus Durgut, 24, who was going to the heavily-guarded compound on the European side of Istanbul, said the gunbattle lasted 15 minutes. “The terrorists were bearded men and had long hair,” Durgut told Reuters, still shaking.
Police have launched an operation to capture armed assailants who escaped.
Broadcaster CNN Turk said one of the attackers had a Syrian passport. Guler said work was still continuing to identify the assailants.
Mutlu Gunes, a 13-year-old eyewitness, told reporters he was on his way to a mosque when he spotted several men preparing guns and placing them inside a Ford Focus car before driving to the nearby consulate. “The three of them got out of the car. One of them shot a policeman in the chest and I saw one terrorist killing himself after being shot by police. Then I hid under a car,” Gunes told reporters.
Turkey has seen armed attacks from a variety of groups over the years, including Maoists, Trotskyists, Kurdish separatists and Islamist militants.
The most serious incidents were in November, 2003, when 62 people were killed in attacks by Islamist militants on two synagogues, a bank and the British consulate. Since then, security has been stepped up at most major consulates and embassies in Turkey.
Four people were killed and 15 wounded in an explosion in Istanbul, before U.S. President George W. Bush visited the city in June 2004.