A far-left extremist group took responsibility for an armed assault Monday by two women on the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, part of a wave of attacks that struck Turkey amid escalating violence.
No U.S. personnel were injured in the shooting incident outside the heavily fortified mission, but the consulate said that it was closing until further notice, according to Turkish media accounts.
The Marxist-oriented Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front announced that it was behind Monday’s attack, saying in a statement that the United States is an “archenemy” of the Middle East.
The group, considered a terrorist organization by U.S. and Turkish officials, had previously taken responsibility for a 2013 suicide bombing outside the American Embassy in Ankara, the capital, that left a Turkish security guard dead.
Earlier accounts had described the assailants in Monday’s consulate attack as a man and a woman, but authorities later identified both as women. One of them, who was wounded in the shootout, was captured by police in a nearby building, state media reported.
Video footage on Turkish TV showed the woman, cornered in a building, refusing to surrender and shouting, “I did it for my party!” before she was shot by a police officer.
The second assailant apparently managed to escape despite a police dragnet in the area, on the European side of the Bosporus waterway, which divides Turkey’s largest city.
The assault at the consulate came hours after a large car bomb exploded about 1 a.m. outside a police station across town in another Istanbul neighborhood, Sultanbeyli, on the Asian side of the city. The blast injured three police officers and seven civilians, according to official and media reports.
As police were searching the heavily damaged scene, authorities said, gunmen opened fire, killing the chief of a bomb disposal unit.
Both suspects in the police station attack were killed in an exchange of gunfire, police said.
It was not clear if the two attacks were related. No one took immediate responsibility for the police station assault.
Elsewhere in Turkey, four police officers were reported killed and another seriously injured in a roadside bomb explosion in the southeastern Turkish province of Sirnak. In a separate attack in the same province, the military said, a soldier was killed when militants opened fire on a military helicopter.
Authorities suspect the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in both of the attacks in the southeast, according to Turkish media.
The renewed violence comes as tensions are running high between Ankara and Turkey’s Kurdish minority. The government has been launching attacks on PKK bases and strongholds in Turkey and neighboring Iraq, leading to protests and clashes in heavily Kurdish areas. The PKK has been targeting Turkish police and infrastructure.
In recent weeks, Turkish authorities have been rounding up hundreds of suspects, including people alleged to have links to the PKK.
With the breakdown of an informal, 2-year-old cease-fire between the government and the PKK, some fear that Turkey, NATO’s eastern bulwark, could descend into a new spiral of violence.
More than 30,000 people were killed during the three-decade war between security forces and the PKK, which says it seeks greater self-determination for Turkey’s long-repressed Kurdish minority. Both Turkey and the United States brand the PKK a terrorist group.
Critics have accused the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of whipping up anti-Kurdish sentiment as an electoral ploy, an allegation dismissed by Turkish leaders.
The spike in attacks is unfolding as the U.S. and Turkey are working on a new plan to battle Islamic State militants in Syria, which shares a more than 500-mile-long border with Turkey. On Sunday, the Pentagon announced that the Air Force had deployed a detachment of six F-16 fighter jets, along with 300 personnel, to Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. The aircraft are meant to bolster the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State, the Al Qaeda breakaway faction that has seized large swaths of territory in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Last month, Turkey announced that it was also joining the U.S.-led battle against Islamic State. But Turkey has concentrated its firepower on attacking suspected PKK positions in eastern Turkey and Iraq.
Turkish authorities vehemently deny allegations that Ankara has provided support to Islamic State and other militant groups fighting to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Times staff writer McDonnell reported from Beirut and special correspondent Bulos from Istanbul.
Follow McDonnell on Twitter at @mcdneville for news out of the Middle East