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Blast hits US embassy in Turkey; 2 killed

A Turkish security guard was killed and several other people wounded yesterday in a suicide bombing outside the highly-fortified US embassy in Ankara, officials said.

The force of the blast damaged nearby buildings in the upmarket Cankaya neighbourhood where many other state institutions and embassies are also located.

Ankara Governor Alaaddin Yuksel said the attacker was inside US property when the explosives were detonated. The blast sent masonry spewing out of the wall of the side entrance, but there did not appear to be any more significant structural damage.

The bomber was also killed.

US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone emerged through the main gate of the building, which is surrounded by high walls, shortly after the explosion to address reporters, flanked by a security detail as a Turkish police helicopter hovered overhead.

"We are very sad of course that we lost one of our Turkish guards at the gate," Ricciardone he said, thanking the Turkish authorities for a prompt response.

A Reuters witness saw one wounded person being lifted into an ambulance as police armed with assault rifles cordoned off the area.

Police have cordoned off the area, and ambulances were seen on standby amid fears the number of casualties could rise.

Predominantly Muslim Turkey is a close US ally and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The British Consulate-General to Turkey said the blast a "suspected terrorist attack".

Islamist radicals, far-left groups, far-right groups and Kurdish separatist militants, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), have all carried out attacks in Turkey in the past. But the PKK has focused its campaign largely on domestic targets.

Turkey has led calls for international intervention in neighbouring Syria and is hosting hundreds of Nato soldiers from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands who are operating a Patriot missile defence system along its border with Syria, hundreds of kilometres away from the capital.

The US Patriots were expected to go active in the coming days.

The most serious attacks of this kind in Turkey occurred in November 2003, when car bombs shattered two synagogues, killing 30 people and wounding 146. Authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.

Part of the HSBC Bank headquarters was destroyed and the British consulate was damaged in two more explosions that killed a further 32 people a week later.

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