February 7, 2013
By Scott Stewart
On Feb. 1, a Turkish national named Ecevit Sanli walked up to the side entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara like many others had done that day. Dressed inconspicuously, he waved a manila envelope at the man inside the guard booth as he approached the entrance. The security guard had no reason to distrust the man approaching the checkpoint; the entrance is used to screen packages, and perhaps the guard assumed Sanli was dropping off a document or was a visa applicant at the wrong entrance. What the guard did not know, perhaps, is that Sanli was a person of interest to the Turkish police, who suspected that he was plotting an attack.
The guard opened the door of the access control building -- the outermost door of the embassy compound -- to speak to Sanli, who took one step inside before detonating the explosive device that was strapped to his body. The explosion killed Sanli and the security guard, seriously wounded a journalist who was visiting the embassy and left two other local guards who were manning the entrance with minor injuries.
The embassy's local security personnel, as designed, bore the brunt of the attack. They are hired and trained to prevent threats from penetrating the embassy's perimeter. The low casualty count of the Feb. 1 attack is a testament to the training and professionalism of the local guards and the robust, layered security measures in place at the embassy -- factors for which those responsible for the attack apparently did not sufficiently plan.
Layers of Security
Sanli apparently had hoped to breach the outer perimeter of the compound and to detonate his device inside the embassy building. Reportedly he carried a firearm and a hand grenade, and the way he approached the access control point likewise suggests he hoped to gain entry. Had he wanted to kill Turkish citizens, he could have done so simply by hitting the visa line outside the embassy.