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US consulate in Istanbul targeted amid attacks in Turkey

Published 10/08/2015

The scene of an explosion at a police station in Istanbul's Sultanbeyli neighbourhood (AP)
The scene of an explosion at a police station in Istanbul's Sultanbeyli neighbourhood (AP)

Two women have opened fire at the heavily protected US consulate in Istanbul, while assailants exploded a car bomb at a police station then fired on police inspecting the scene.

Meanwhile i n the south-east of the country a roadside bomb killed four police, and Kurdish rebels attacked a helicopter, killing a conscript.

There has been a recent sharp spike in violence between Turkey's security forces and rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, as Turkey has attacked PKK targets in Iraq in tandem with airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria.

One of the consulate attackers was later shot and taken into custody in a nearby building and taken to hospital. The far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Army-Front, or DHKP-C, identified her as 51-year-old Hatice Asik, and said she was a member of the group, though it did not directly claim responsibility for the attack. The DHKP-C and the PKK both have Marxist origins and have co-operated in the past, though there was no immediate indication of PKK involvement in this attack.

The second woman is still being hunted. There were no other casualties.

Hours earlier, an overnight bomb attack at a police station in Istanbul injured three policemen and seven civilians and caused a fire that collapsed part of the three-storey building. The suspected bomber was killed during the explosion, according to the Istanbul governor's office.

Unknown assailants later fired on police inspecting the scene of the explosion, sparking another gunfight with police that killed a member of the inspection team and two assailants. There was no immediate responsibility claim for that attack.

Turkey last month carried out a major security sweep, detaining some 1,300 people suspected of links to banned organisations, including the PKK, the DHKP-C and extremists of Islamic State (IS).

Turkey has recently started taking a more active role against IS militants. Last month it conducted aerial strikes against IS positions in Syria and agreed to let the US-led coalition use its bases for its fight against IS. On Sunday, the US military announced that a detachment of six F-16 fighter jets and some 300 personnel have arrived at Turkey's southern Incirlik Air Base.

In further violence on Monday, Kurdish rebels in the south-eastern province of Sirnak fired at a helicopter carrying conscripts who either had finished their term of duty or were taking leave, killing one of them and injuring another, the military said. Four police were also killed in Sirnak province when their armoured vehicle was attacked with a roadside bomb.

The DHKP-C, which has claimed responsibility for assassinations and bombings since the 1970s, has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United States. It claimed responsibility for a 2013 suicide attack on the US embassy in Ankara, which killed a Turkish security guard.

In a statement posted on its website the group described the consulate attacker, Asik, as a "revolutionary" fighting American oppression and vowed to maintain its struggle until Turkey is "cleared" of all US bases.

The US embassy said American officials were working with Turkish authorities to investigate the incident. The consulate will remain closed to the public until further notice, it said.

Police wearing flak jackets and holding machine guns blocked off streets leading to the consulate. The building, which is surrounded by fortified walls, was intact and its flag was flying.

Other recent attacks by the DHKP-C have included the headquarters of a political party and the Turkish Ministry of Justice. The group, which wants to set up a socialist state in Turkey, advocates a Marxist-Leninist ideology and opposes the US and Turkish governments, as well as Nato.

In 2008, an attack blamed on al Qaida-affiliated militants outside the US consulate in Istanbul left three assailants and three policemen dead.

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