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Embassy bomber had terror record

The suicide bomber who attacked the US embassy in Ankara spent several years in prison on terrorism charges but was released on probation after being diagnosed with a hunger strike-related brain disorder, it has emerged.

The bomber, identified as left-wing militant Ecevit Sanli, 40, killed himself and a Turkish security guard on Friday in what US officials said was a terrorist attack.

Sanli was armed with enough TNT to blow up a two-storey building and also detonated a hand grenade, officials said.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said police believed the bomber was connected his nation's outlawed militant group Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C.

On Saturday, DHKP-C claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on a website linked to the group, saying Sanli carried out the act of "self-sacrifice" on its behalf.

The group called itself "immortal" and said "Down with imperialism and the collaborating oligarchy", but gave no reason for attacking the US embassy.

Turkey's private NTV television, meanwhile, said police detained three people yesterday who may be connected to the embassy attack during operations in Ankara and Istanbul. Two of the suspects were being questioned by police in Ankara, while the third was taken into custody in Istanbul and was being brought to Ankara.

NTV, citing unidentified security sources, said one of the suspects was a man whose identity Sanli allegedly used to enter Turkey illegally, while the second was suspected of forging identity papers.

Earlier, interior minister Muammer Guler said Sanli had fled Turkey after he was released from jail in 2001, but managed to return to the country using a fake ID. NTV said he was believed to have come from Germany, crossing into Turkey from Greece.

DHKP-C has claimed responsibility for assassinations and bombings since the 1970s, but it has been relatively quiet in recent years. Compared to al Qaida, it has not been seen as a strong terrorist threat.

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