Six people were killed in Istanbul Wednesday when gunmen attacked Turkish police officers guarding the entrance to the U.S. Consulate. The Turkish government and the U.S. ambassador to Turkey have condemned the bloody, mid-morning gun battle, calling it an act of terrorism.
In the shootout's aftermath, bodies lay bleeding on the consulate doorstep as Turkish police investigated the scene.
Fifteen-year-old Muhammet Nur, an eyewitness to the attack, said he first suspected something strange was happening when he saw a car with four bearded men pull up near the entrance to the consulate.
"One man was wearing a coat, and I wondered why he would be dressed that way in this heat," Nur said. "Then I saw him open up his coat, and I saw he had guns in his belt."
Nur said three of the men stepped out of the car, pulled out weapons and opened fired at a guard booth manned by Turkish police officers. The officers provide the first line of defense at the heavily fortified American compound.
"They started shooting at the guard booth, then two of the attackers fell on the ground, shot," Nur said. "There was one attacker left shooting. Then he either ran out of bullets or dropped his gun, and leaned down. That's when a policeman came out of the guard booth and shot him twice: once in the shoulder and once in the head."
Three attackers were killed an the scene, as was one Turkish police officer. Two other Turkish police officers later died of their wounds at a nearby hospital, and a fourth is being treated for serious injuries.
A manhunt is under way for the driver of the attackers' vehicle. Turkish police said he may have been wounded as he fled. All four attackers were identified as Turkish citizens.
There were no casualties inside the consulate, which perches high on a hill overlooking the street.
"We take any attack on our facilities very seriously. We take the loss of life seriously," said Ross Wilson, the American ambassador to Turkey.
Wilson has called the incident an act of terrorism and has requested additional security at other U.S. diplomatic and military installations across Turkey.
"Could there be something else that comes along in the next several days?" Wilson asked. "Many will recall the attacks in Istanbul in 2003, on a British consulate, a British bank and several Jewish synagogues. Those were spaced out over the course of several days. I don't know what's coming next; we want to be very attentive to our security and the security of our personnel here."
In November 2003, 57 people were killed during one week in a series of synchronized suicide truck bombings around Istanbul. Turkish authorities said those attacks were carried out by an al-Qaida-linked gang of Turks, some of whom had trained at camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Turkish investigators said it was still too early to speculate on the motives behind today's attacks.