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, officials said Saturday.
The bomber, identified as 40-year-old leftist militant Ecevit Sanli, killed himself and a Turkish security guard on Friday, in what US officials said was a terrorist attack. Sanli was armed with TNT and also detonated a hand grenade, officials said, AP reported.
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 to 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 the 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.
Sanli was released in 2002 after being diagnosed with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a malnutrition-related brain illness that affects vision, muscle coordination and memory and that can cause hallucinations. Sanli fled Turkey after his release and was wanted by Turkish authorities, the statement said. He was convicted in absentia in 2002.
Thousands Demand Reform in Bahrain
Several thousand Bahrainis marched near the capital Manama on Friday to demand reforms in a protest called by the Shiite opposition in the tiny but strategic Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf kingdom, witnesses said.
The demonstrators also called for the departure of the king’s uncle Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, who has been prime minister for more than four decades, AFP reported.
Thousands of men and women protested in Al-Bilad Al-Qadim, waving Bahraini flags and brandishing pictures of political detainees, the witnesses said.
“National action calling for democratic change will not stop ... until all rights have been granted,” opposition groups said in a statement.
“The action of the people of Bahrain on the ground has lasted for two years and will not end--the opposition will act every day with demonstrations until all our demands are met,” it added.
Referring to a call by King Hamad on January 23 for a new round of national dialogue, the statement said “this dialogue is obscure and does not reflect a serious will on the part of the authorities to meet popular demands.”
Bahrain, ruled by the minority Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, has been rocked by Shiite-led protests since February 2011.
Despite a bloody crackdown on protesters in Manama between mid-February and mid-March that year, sporadic demonstrations have continued in villages around the capital.
The International Federation for Human Rights says 80 people have died since the start of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising on February 14, 2011.
A court in Bahrain sentenced a policeman to seven years in prison for the fatal shooting of a Shiite protester during the unrest kingdom in 2011.
Ali Abdulhadi Al-Mushaima was the first person to die in the violence that erupted in staunch US ally Bahrain last February when thousands of Bahrainis took to the street.
“In dealing with one of the instances of rioting in the (Daih) area, the accused fired from a birdshot gun, injuring the victim with wounds that claimed his life,” Nawaf Hamza, head of the Public Prosecution’s Special Investigation Unit, was quoted as saying.
The death of Mushaima and another protester, Fadhel Salman Matrook, prompted Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa to give a televised speech in which he said a committee would investigate the killings.
Egyptian Ex-Interior Minister Gets New Jail Sentence
An Egyptian court has sentenced the country’s former interior minister to three years in prison after finding him guilty of abusing his position in power by forcing police conscripts to work on his mansion and land outside Cairo.
Habib Al-Adly served as ousted leader Hosni Mubarak’s security chief for more than a decade, AP reported.
The Giza court on Saturday also convicted former riot police chief Hassan Abdel-Hamid of authorizing the illegal labor and sentenced him to three years in prison.
Both men were fined 2.3 million Egyptian pounds ($342,000). The verdict can be appealed.
In June, Al-Adly and Mubarak were sentenced to life in prison for failing to prevent the killing of protesters during the 2011 revolt that led to Mubarak’s ouster. Both men appealed, and have won a retrial.
The verdicts against former officials were announced as the country’s new rulers are facing political crisis.
Egyptian riot police were deployed near the presidential palace following clashes between protesters and security forces that killed one person and wounded dozens.
Medics said the 23-year-old died of a gunshot wound in Cairo late on Friday after police fired birdshot at the protesters, who are seeking to overthrow the president.
A senior medical official said fifty-three people were also wounded, while the Interior Ministry said 15 of its men were wounded by birdshot. Police also said they arrested 20 people.
Clashes erupted outside the presidential palace on Friday after demonstrators attacked the premises with stones and petrol bombs.
Security forces have blocked off most of the roads with concrete walls to prevent protesters from approaching government offices.
Earlier, the presidency said security forces would deal with violent protests with “utmost decisiveness” and that it would hold opposition groups found to have incited the clashes “politically accountable.”
President Mohamed Morsi said protesters had tried to break down the Presidential Palace gates and scale its walls and demanded that opposition groups denounce the violence and call on their followers to withdraw.
On Friday, there were also demonstrations in several other major Egyptian cities, with protesters accusing Morsi of monopolizing power and betraying the ideals of the 2011 revolution that toppled former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The protesters in Port Said are angry that people from their city were found guilty of murdering 74 people, who were killed in a riot that broke out in their town after Port Said-based Al-Masry defeated Cairo’s Al-Ahly 3-1 in a football match.
On January 27, a judge sentenced 21 local people to death for their roles in the February 1, 2012 riot, in which 1,000 people were also injured.
Egypt’s prime minister said the street violence and political unrest that has engulfed the country for more than a week is threatening the nation’s already ailing economy.
In a brief statement on TV Saturday, Hisham Kandil also condemned recent attacks by protesters on state property and said no government can effectively govern in the current climate.
Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have been cut by more than half since the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Foreign reserves currently are estimate at around $15 billion.
Yemen Forces Kill 21 Militants In Two Days
Yemeni government forces have driven a group of insurgents linked to Al-Qaeda from their mountain retreat in the country’s south after killing 21 militants during two days of fighting, a military source said on Saturday.
The army and pro-government militias battled militants on Thursday and Saturday near the town of Shuqra in Abyan province, an impoverished, rugged region of southern Yemen where tribal law holds sway and armed extremists have a strong presence, Reuters reported.
Five soldiers and two militia members were also killed, the source said. Surviving militants fled the area, he added.
Tackling lawlessness in Yemen, which lies near important oil shipment routes and flanks the world’s biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, is an international priority.
Washington and other Western governments regard Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as one of the most dangerous branches of the militant network. It has planned attacks on international targets including airliners and pledges to topple Saudi Arabia’s ruling family.
Yemen’s military and tribal militias ousted an Islamist group called Ansar Al-Sharia, which is affiliated with AQAP, from the towns of Jaar and Zinjibar in Abyan province last year.
On Thursday the army and militias launched an attack on remnants of the Ansar Al-Sharia holed up in caves in the area, killing two militants.
Russia Denies Plan to Talk To Syria Opposition
Russia categorically rejected Western media reports claiming that Moscow is planning to hold talks with Syrian opposition on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference about “a political transition for Syria.”
On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov denied that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet on Saturday with US Vice President Joe Biden, UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, and Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib to discuss the exacerbating Syrian conflict, RIA Novosti news agency reported.
“Speculations in the media about a Munich meeting between Lavrov, Biden, Brahimi and Al-Khatib are false,” Gatilov stated.
He added, “As of today, there is no such meeting mentioned in the program of the Russian foreign minister.”
On January 23, Lavrov reiterated that Russia’s position in the Syrian crisis remains an immediate end to the violence in the Arab state and restoration of peace and stability there.
He also criticized the Syrian opposition, and said nothing positive would come from its continued armed struggle against the Damascus government.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government has said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of the militants operating in the country are foreign nationals.
The leader of the foreign-backed Syrian opposition coalition Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib reiterated that the group is willing to sit at the negotiating table with the Syrian government.