2 people held after drive-by-shooters target US embassy in Turkey

The attack came amid escalating disputes between Washington and Turkey over a detained US pastor and trade issues

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 3:22am

Shots were fired from a moving car at the US Embassy in Turkey before dawn on Monday, an attack that came during heightened tensions between the two Nato allies. Officials said two people with criminal records were detained.

There were no casualties in the fleeting attack, in which three of the six bullets fired hit the embassy gate and a reinforced window in the building in Ankara.

“We can confirm a security incident took place at the US Embassy early this morning. We have no reports of any injuries and we are investigating,” embassy spokesman David Gainer said. He thanked Turkish police for their “rapid response”.

The Ankara governor’s office named the suspects as Ahmet Celikten, 39, and Osman Gundas, 38, saying they had confessed. They were apprehended along with a 9-millimeter gun and a vehicle with Ankara number plates.

The statement said Celikten had escaped prison and Gundas had several crimes on his record, including car theft, drugs, threats and injury.

Turkish officials are locked in a trade and diplomatic dispute with the United States but they fully condemned the shooting in Ankara. Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted that it was “an attempt to create chaos”.

How the fate of detained pastor brought US-Turkey relations to the brink

A top official in Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party said that the attack was a “clear provocation” and that foreign diplomats were guests of the country.

“The utmost sensitivity will be shown to ensure their security,” said the party spokesman, Omer Celik. “Turkey is a safe country.”

The governor’s office said they were investigating the suspects’ links.

The US Embassy was planning to close at midday on Monday anyway until the end of the week for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Tensions between the US and Turkey are high, partly because of the case of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who is being prosecuted in Turkey for alleged espionage and terrorism-related offences. He denies any wrongdoing, and US President Donald Trump has called for his immediate release.

Turkey has long criticised the United States for not agreeing to hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric accused by Turkish authorities of engineering an attempted coup in 2016. Gulen denies those allegations. Washington has told Turkey it must present convincing evidence for any extradition proceeding to go forward.

The Turkish lira has lost 39 per cent of its value against the US dollar since the beginning of the year and was hurt further by recent US tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium. Turkey’s economy is already vulnerable because of heavy foreign currency borrowing that fuelled high growth for years.

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has imposed its own tit-for-tat tariffs on some American goods.