Turkey Embassy Bombing Not Another Benghazi

Ross Wilson, former US ambassador to Turkey, says yesterday's suicide attack on our embassy in Ankara "was no Benghazi."


Ross Wilson, former US ambassador to Turkey and now my colleague at the Atlantic Council, says yesterday’s suicide attack on our embassy in Ankara “was no Benghazi.”

This was no Benghazi.  The Ankara embassy’s tight security perimeter did its job, stopping the assailant before he could endanger the US mission and its diplomatic staff and confining the security breach to one of the several reinforced gatehouses that screen visitors into the embassy compound.  Embassy staff under Ambassador Francis Ricciardone reacted calmly and efficiently, immediately sealing the compound and securing the people and facilities inside.  Ricciardone promptly went outside the embassy fences to make a statement to the media, demonstrating confidence, not confusion, about his post and its security.

As today’s televised images make clear, Turkish policy deployed with great-and customary-speed to ensure security outside the perimeter as well.  One can wonder whether the rush of uniformed personnel into the tight street adjacent to the destroyed embassy gatehouse might have made a tempting target for a second bomber, but the bravery and determination were remarkable.  I saw something similar while serving as US ambassador in Ankara myself in 2005-2008 when gunshots were fired from the street into my office.  Literally within seconds and before most of our own staff knew that anything had happened, dozens of uniformed Turkish security police appeared out of woodwork around the embassy and chased the gunman down.

Another difference from Benghazi:  this was apparently not al-Qaeda.  The authorities’ presumed culprit, DHKP/C, is a Marxist splinter group with a far out ideology that is anti-American, anti-Western, anti-capitalism, and anti-authority.  Its modus operandi has been violent opposition to non-leftist institutions of power whatever they may be, whoever runs them, and regardless of the purposes they serve.  Despite its 1960s name and brand, the organization has a history of brutal efficiency in the murder and terrorism business.  Over the past two decades or so, it has carried out dozens of assassinations and many more bombings and assaults.  Targeting of Americans and American institutions was less effective, but has happened.

Much more at the link.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. SKI says:

    Huge difference is embassy vs. consulate.

  2. SKI says:

    Darn not being able to edit!

    AlsoTurkey != Libya

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    Another difference from Benghazi: this was apparently not al-Qaeda.

    Another similarity with Benghazi: the Benghazi attack was not carried out by al-Qaeda. It was carried out by a local group of Libyan militants.

    To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence.

    The fighters said at the time that they were moved to act because of the video, which had first gained attention across the region after a protest in Egypt that day. The assailants approvingly recalled a 2006 assault by local Islamists that had destroyed an Italian diplomatic mission in Benghazi over a perceived insult to the prophet. In June the group staged a similar attack against the Tunisian Consulate over a different film, according to the Congressional testimony of the American security chief at the time, Eric A. Nordstrom.

    At a news conference the day after the ambassador and three other Americans were killed, a spokesman for Ansar al-Shariah praised the attack as the proper response to such an insult to Islam. “We are saluting our people for this zeal in protecting their religion, to grant victory to the Prophet,” the spokesman said. “The response has to be firm.” Other Benghazi militia leaders who know the group say its leaders and ideology are all homegrown. Those leaders, including Ahmed Abu Khattala and Mohammed Ali Zahawi, fought alongside other commanders against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Their group provides social services and guards a hospital. And they openly proselytize for their brand of puritanical Islam and political vision.

    They profess no interest in global fights against the West or distant battles aimed at removing American troops from the Arabian Peninsula. [The New York Times, 10/15/12]

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    This is the difference between an attack on a well-established embassy in the capital city of a NATO ally which is at peace and has an effective military and police force, and an attack on a temporary consulate in a random city of a country just emerging from a civil war which has no effective military or police force. So it’s hardly surprising or unexpected that the aftermath of the initial attack would be entirely different.

    The US equivalent would be something like attacking a sheriff’s department in a rural upstate NY country versus attacking NYPD headquarters in NYC. You’ll always have more success with the former.

  5. rudderpedals says:

    Isn’t it striking that last month’s Benghazi fetishists are this month’s Hagel hazers? It’s as simple as flipping the Rolodex of administration evuls to the next card and whatever it is becomes the next hill to die on.