Turkish police are hunting for the perpetrators of today’s drive-by shooting targeting the US Embassy in Ankara that senior Turkish officials described as a “provocation” and “attempt to create chaos.”
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu asked, “Might it be a provocation following recent events, or is it a common crime?” Soylu was referring to the acrimony between Turkey and the United States over the continued detention of North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson.
Police said the assailants, who were in a white car, shot six times at the embassy premises, a large and unseemly stone block that runs along Ankara’s main artery, Ataturk Boulevard, around 5 a.m local time. No one was hurt in the attack, which took place on the eve of the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha. The only evidence was a damaged window in one of the security booths guarding the edifice.
“This is a clear attempt to create chaos. Turkey is a safe country and all foreign missions are under protection,” tweeted presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. The embassy confirmed in a statement there were no injuries and lauded Turkish police for their “rapid response.” At least one suspect has been detained in connection with the shooting.
The US mission in Ankara and its staff have been targeted in the past, most recently in 2013, when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the embassy, killing a guard and seriously wounding respected Turkish TV journalist Didem Tuncay, who lost her right eye. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on a home-grown Marxist terror outfit.
Tensions between the NATO allies have been escalating ever since the Donald Trump administration slapped trade sanctions on Turkey and froze the assets of two senior cabinet ministers — Soylu is one of them — over Ankara’s refusal to free Brunson. The evangelical missionary has been held for nearly two years on dubious espionage and terror charges. They include allegations that Brunson was involved in the abortive July 2016 coup and was actively encouraging Kurdish separatism while converting Muslim Kurds to Christianity.
Trump is leading the barrage of protest with angry tweets about Turkey’s behavior and threatening further punitive action if the pastor is not immediately freed. At a cabinet meeting last week, Trump griped, “Turkey, they have not proven to be a good friend. They have a great Christian pastor there. … I just think it s a terrible thing that they’re holding him." He then tweeted, “We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey.” His salvoes have sent the battered Turkish lira to record lows and further weakened Turkey’s troubled economy, sending jitters across emerging markets worldwide. On Friday, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s further downgraded Turkey’s sovereign credit rating into junk territory.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to disavow all responsibility for the collapsing lira and high inflation that has struck the nation in recent months, saying the country is facing “economic warfare” from outside powers. In a televised Eid address, Erdogan likened it to an attack on the Muslim call to prayer and the Turkish flag, saying, “The goal is to bring Turkey and the Turkish people to their knees.”
The assault on the heavily protected embassy is the most serious manifestation of the wave of anti-American hysteria gripping the nation since the sanctions were announced. Turks across the country have posted videos of themselves setting dollar bills alight and taking hammers and clubs to their iPhones in response to Erdogan’s call to boycott American products. Pro-government screeds have weighed in with conspiracies about how the United States wants to destroy Turkey. Credit for originality goes to Sabah’s Mehmet Barlas, who claimed that when the United States decides to go to war against another country, it designs a bomb “that either alters the sexual preferences of its citizens or kills them all.”
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