Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2008
In Today's Papers
Armed Attack on U.S. Consulate in Istanbul
All news outlets report three Turkish policemen and three gunmen
were killed in an armed attack on the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul.
On Wednesday, a vehicle carrying four people came to the main gate
of the Consulate around 10:30 in the morning. Three of the
assailants got out of the car and fired at the police officer
standing guard in front of the Consulate. An armed clash erupted as
the police officer as well as two other traffic policemen patrolling
in the neighborhood responded the fire. Three assailants who got
out of the car were killed; the driver of the car fled the scene.
One policeman died at the scene and two others were rushed to the
hospital for serious injuries. Eyewitnesses reported to television
news that bystanders who were waiting for visas were also injured in
the attack. (These claims were later confirmed to be false.)
Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said police determined the
identities of the three slain assailants, who are all Turkish
citizens. One of them has a criminal record for theft. Papers say
the perpetrators are said to have "received training in
Afghanistan," and they are "allegedly members of al-Qaeda."
Investigations have identified the assailants as Erkan Kargin,
Bulent Cinar and Raif Topcil. Cinar has a record for theft and
Kargin for swindling. There is no verification of the claims that
the third dead assailant Raif Topcil was detained in Guantanamo and
then released a month ago. Various unnamed sources were cited in
papers who speculated that al-Qaeda groups targeted the U.S.
Consulate in Turkey in retaliation for the killing of four AQ
members in the province of Gaziantep in January. "After the
Gaziantep operation, we realized that al-Qaeda might carry out a
reprisal attack. Wednesday's attack sends a message to both the
U.S. and Turkey," a senior official told Milliyet. Security
measures were heightened at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul and in
Ankara around the Prime Minister's Office and the U.S. Embassy.
Turkish Reaction to Attack on U.S. Consulate
All papers report President Abdullah Gul, Parliament Speaker Koksal
Toptan, Prime Minister Erdogan and Turkish General Staff (TGS) Chief
General Yasar Buyukanit strongly condemned the attack. "Turkey will
fight until the end against the mindset that organizes such
attacks," Gul said. Prime Minister Erdogan said in a message,
"these heinous attacks targeting Turkey's stability will not reach
their goals, thanks to the determination of our brave security
forces." Turkey's main opposition party CHP leader Deniz Baykal
expressed "profound sorrow" over the killing of three police
officers in the attack. "Killing the three attackers shows our
security forces' determination in the fight against terrorism,"
Baykal said. In a statement posted on the Turkish General Staff's
(TGS) webpage, General Yasar Buyukanit harshly condemned the attack.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry (TGS) also condemned the attack, and
said that security measures were increased in and around the U.S.
diplomatic missions in the country.
International Reaction to Attack on U.S. Consulate
All papers report European Commission spokesperson Amadeu Altafaj
Tardio said they share the grief with Turkish authorities and
relatives of the policemen who were killed in the attack. European
countries, including Greece, Spain, France and Denmark also strongly
condemned the deadly attack. In "Wilson: 'We Are Grateful to
Turkish Police," mainstream Milliyet says U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Ross Wilson denounced the armed attack as an "act of terror," and
said that Turkish and American security officials were "working
together to clarify the details of the attack." Wilson called the
act, "a dastardly and coward attack," and stressed the U.S. and
Turkey would "stand together and confront this, as we have in the
past." Addressing journalists at a news conference on the Embassy
grounds in Ankara, Wilson offered condolences from U.S. Government
to the families of the three police officers who lost their lives in
the attack. "The police responded effectively and quickly," he said
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and expressed gratitude to Turkish police for their efforts to guard
the U.S. official buildings in the country. Wilson added the U.S.
would continue to be a close friend and ally of Turkey and that acts
of terror could not damage the ties between the two countries.
Turkish Press Play of Attack on U.S. Istanbul Consulate
Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak carries the front-page banner headline,
"Lowlifes!" and asks, "Is this a warning to the police in
retaliation against the Ergenekon investigation or the January 2008
police operation that killed four members of an al-Qaeda cell in
Diyarbakir?" or "Is this another Al Qaeda attack after its 2003
Istanbul attacks?" Yeni Safak points out that the Diyarbakir
operation, "took place based on intelligence provided by the U.S. to
Turkey." The paper also notes that Osama Bin Laden's 16-year-old son
Hamza recently "made a call via the internet to continue the fight
against the U.S. and its allies Britain, France, and Denmark." In
"The Last Thing Turkey Needed: Armed Attack on the U.S. Consulate in
Istanbul," mainstream Hurriyet speculated yesterday's attack "was
ordered by Osama bin Laden's youngest son." Leftist Taraf carries
the banner front-page headline, "Al-Qaeda's Response to the
Gaziantep Operation." In "Al-Qaeda Strikes After Five Years,"
mainstream Sabah blames al-Qaeda for the attack and notes the three
dead assailants were from Bitlis, Turkey and "last week U.S. forces
killed an al-Qaeda member in Afghanistan that was also from Bitlis."
Sabah wonders if this is retaliation against this killing. In
addition, the paper says, "The goal of the attacks was to harm the
improving ties between Turkey and the U.S. by raiding the
consulate." Sabah also notes the alleged ties between the
assailants and the "Afghani Group" led by Necef Abu Necani, who also
perpetrated the bomb attacks in Madrid. In "Six Turks Die in Attack
on America," mainstream Vatan reports one of the assailants, Raif
Topcu, "returned to Istanbul from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo one
month ago," and, "had traveled to Afghanistan." In "Heroic
Policemen Foil Attack on U.S. Consulate," Islamist-oriented Zaman
reports, "The goal of the attack was to create chaos in Turkey,"
because, "The U.S. Consulate represents U.S. presence in the Middle
East." Conservative-nationalist Turkiye blames the attack on
al-Qaeda, but claims it was "supported by the radical Turkish
Islamist group IBDA-C."
Editorial Opinion on Attack on the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul
"Terror and Chaos"
Ergun Babahan wrote in mainstream Sabah (7/10): "Every terror
attack aims to damage the public's feelings of security, thus
forcing the public to seek a strong authority. It is not possible
to understand Turkey's recent history without understanding this.
Now, this terrorist attack happened in Istanbul while the Ergenekon
investigation is continuing. Whether Al-Qaeda, the PKK or DHKP-C,
or whoever is responsible of the terrorist attacks, the aim is
always to create chaos and fear. But, we can beat terror through a
strong democratic system."
Sami Kohen questioned in mainstream Milliyet (7/10): "The fact is
yesterday's target was the U.S. However, the facts that Istanbul
was the location chosen for the attack and the attack took place at
the time of increasing tensions in the region makes us think that
this can be linked to the developments in the Middle East. In fact,
the assessments made by experts on terrorism and foreign policy
yesterday right after the attack also implied that."
"To Live Together with the Terror"
Oktay Eksi commented in mainstream Hurriyet (7/10): "It is not yet
clear whether those who attacked the US Consulate General in
Istanbul yesterday are insane people who belong to Al Qaeda, as
everyone claims, or whether they are killers belonging to another
evil group who sees no harm in killing innocent people. But it is
clear that really there is no difference between the two."
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Gungor Mengi wrote in mainstream Vatan (7/10): "[The building of]
the US Consulate General in Istanbul was constructed as one of the
most protected fortresses in the world. The four terrorists who
yesterday attacked the police checkpoint at the entrance of this
building probably did not really think they would enter the
building. They probably targeted the police. In other words, this is
an act of blind vengeance the likes of which are quite common for us
in the periods of instability."
"Was Yesterday's Shooting Against the Ergenekon Investigation?"
Tamer Korkmaz questioned in Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak (7/10):
"The coup-planning Ergenekon organization is now cornered by the
authorities. Right at this time, a terrorist attack takes place.
Yesterday's incident is extremely interesting in terms of its
timing, targets and the picture it tries to hide. I wonder if
yesterday's attacks want to give this message: 'Do not clamp down on
the Ergenekon organization.'"
PKK Abducts German Climbers in Mount Ararat
All papers report five PKK members abducted three out of thirteen
German mountaineers who were climbing Mount Agri (Ararat) in eastern
Turkey. Liberal Radikal reports, "The PKK came into the Germans'
camp at 23:00 the night before last and took three of the tourists,"
and the kidnappers said, "We'll keep them for a few days and then
release them." Mainstream Sabah reports, "Agri Governor Mehmet
Cetin said the kidnappings are in retaliation to the German
government's actions against the PKK." The ten remaining
mountaineers were safely transferred to the town of Dogubayazit in
Agri province while gendarme launched a wide-scale search and rescue
Destito: Turkey One of the U.S.' Best Partners in Combating
Islamist-oriented Zaman reports White House anti-drug section second
chief Scott Burns, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting
Administrator Michele Leonhart, and DEA Ankara bureau director Mark
Destito briefed Turkish press in Istanbul on Wednesday. The
Americans participated in the 26th Annual International Drug
Enforcement Conference (IDEC) in Istanbul. Destito said Turkey was
"one of America's best partners" in combating drug trafficking.
Leonhart praised Turkey's fight against drugs, saying Turkish police
seized over 13 ton of narcotics last year, reports Zaman.
- Forest fires in the Mediterranean province of Mersin are finally
under control after three days.
- On Wednesday, an Istanbul court rejected the prosecutor's appeal
against the release of four suspects, including dailies Cumhuriyet
and Tercuman editors, who were detained last week within the
- A Turkish Central Bank survey says yearend inflation was expected
to stand at 10.76 percent.
- Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan's op-ed in The Wall Street
Journal calls for "dialogue with Turkey for the normalization of
ties and the opening of the border."
- Russian President Dimitri Medvedev said plans to deploy parts of
the U.S. missile shield in the Czech Republic "deeply distresses"
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- The U.S. Treasury Department prohibits all transactions with four
Iranian firms which are known to be close to Tehran's nuclear and