Sun, Feb 03, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Turkey attack casts pall as John Kerry sworn in

AFP and AP, WASHINGTON and ANKARA

Former US senator John Kerry was sworn in on Friday as US secretary of state, less than two hours after former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton swept out of office on a day marred by yet another attack on a US diplomatic post.

US Supreme Court judge Elena Kagan administered the oath of office to Kerry during a private ceremony on Capitol Hill. He was joined by his wife, Teresa, daughter, Vanessa, brother, Cameron and his Senate staff.

However, a pall was cast over the historic events by an attack on the US embassy in Ankara that killed a Turkish security guard.

It came less than five months after the attack in September last year on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, in which late US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died, and two weeks after the militant hostage crisis in Algeria.

“I am very proud of the work we have done together,” Clinton, 65, told hundreds of cheering staff just before she left the US State Department, having tendered her letter of resignation to US President Barack Obama.

“Of course, we live in very complex and even dangerous times, as we saw again just today at our embassy in Ankara, where we were attacked and lost one of our foreign service nationals, and others injured. I know that the world we are trying to help bring into being in the 21st century will have many difficult days,” she added.

However, the former first lady and US senator said she was “more optimistic today than I was when I stood here four years ago” because of the agency’s work to help ensure “peace, progress and prosperity” around the world.

US officials said they were probing the Ankara attack, when a bomber wearing a suicide vest blew himself up at the first checkpoint on the perimeter of the embassy compound. In addition to killing the guard, three people were hurt, one seriously.

The bombing once again exposes the vulnerability of the army of 70,000 US diplomats — many of whom operate in the world’s hotspots.

The suicide bomber who struck the US Embassy in Ankara spent five years in prison on terrorism charges, but was released after being diagnosed with a hunger strike-related brain disorder, Turkish officials said yesterday.

The bomber was identified as 40-year-old leftist militant Ecevit Sanli. Sanli was armed with TNT and also detonated a hand grenade, officials said.

The US flag at the embassy flew at half-staff and already tight security was increased. Police sealed off a street in front of the security checkpoint where the explosion knocked a door off its hinges and littered the road with debris. Police vehicles were parked in streets surrounding the building.

Sanli’s motives were still unclear. He had been a member of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, which has claimed responsibility for assassinations and bombings since the 1970s, but has been relatively quiet in recent years. Compared with al-Qaeda, it has not been seen as a strong terrorist threat.

Officials said Sanil was arrested in 1997 for alleged involvement in attacks on police headquarters and a military guesthouse in Istanbul and jailed on charges of membership in the group.

While in prison awaiting trial, he took part in a major hunger strike that led to the deaths of dozens of inmates, according to a statement from the Ankara governor’s office. The protesters opposed a maximum-security system in which prisoners were held in small cells instead of large wards.

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