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Shooting at U.S. Embassy in Ankara leads to rare moment of U.S.-Turkey solidarity

Several gunshots were fired from a vehicle at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey on Aug. 20. A bullet hit a window but caused no fatalities. (Video: Reuters)

ISTANBUL — When gunmen opened fire on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara just before sunrise Monday, they struck a fortified guard booth but caused no injuries or other harm.

The shooting in the Turkish capital, however, posed a different kind of danger: threatening to aggravate a bitter feud between Turkey and the United States that has raged for weeks.

The dispute centers on Turkey’s refusal to release a detained American pastor and is the worst between the two NATO allies in decades. It has included tit-for-tat economic sanctions and recriminations between President Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  

On Monday, though, both sides appeared determined to prevent their feud from spiraling further. Turkish officials quickly condemned the shooting, with Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, writing on Twitter that the attack was “an open attempt to create chaos.” Foreign missions, he added, were “under the protection of the law.”

By Monday evening, Turkish authorities had announced the arrests of two suspects. A U.S. Embassy statement praised the “fast and professional” action of the Turkish government and police as well as “their support and protection,” in a rare moment of solidarity between two countries whose vitriolic arguments have reverberated around the globe.

Erdogan capitalizes on Trump’s effort to break and isolate Turkey

Tensions between the two sides escalated in early August, when the Trump administration sanctioned two top Turkish officials in retaliation for Ankara’s refusal to release the American pastor Andrew Brunson. Turkey is prosecuting Brunson on terrorism-related charges that U.S. officials have dismissed as ludicrous.

When Trump subsequently said he would double tariffs on Turkish steel, the announcement helped further weaken the faltering Turkish currency and raised fears that Turkey’s economic troubles could spread to global markets. 

Erdogan has reacted with defiance and directed public anger at the United States, accusing the Trump administration of interfering with Turkey’s judiciary and waging economic warfare. 

Turkish courts have repeatedly rejected appeals to free Brunson from house arrest. His next court hearing is scheduled for early October.  

A statement by the Ankara governor on Monday said two suspects, Ahmet Celikten and Osman Gundas, had admitted to carrying out the embassy shooting, which occurred about 5:30 a.m. The statement provided no detail about the motive for the attack and said the investigation was continuing.  

Celikten, born in 1979, was wanted by authorities over “his failure to fulfill insurance obligations,” the statement said. Gundas, born in 1980, had a history of petty crime, including charges for auto theft, it said.

The U.S. Embassy is closed to the public for four days this week because of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday.

U.S.: ‘We have more that we’re planning to do’ if Turkey doesn’t release pastor

In Trump’s standoff with Turkey, two tough-guy leaders and a deal gone wrong

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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