ISTANBUL – TDN with wire dispatches
The fourth assailant who fled the scene after the gunfight in front of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul's İstiniye suburb was detained after the car he was traveling in was found, reports said Friday.
According to eye witness accounts, four people attacked the police post in front of the consulate Wednesday around 10:30 a.m., with the ensuing gun fight leaving three police officers and three of the four assailants dead.
Friday's newspapers claimed the fourth person was detained by the police despite the fact that no statement was issued by the Istanbul Police Department to corroborate the story. The number of suspects linked to Wednesday's attack is ten, Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler said Friday.
It is said that the suspect is being questioned by the Anti-Terrorism Bureau at the Istanbul Police Department.
One of the gunmen who was killed in the shootout was said to have traveled to Afghanistan in the past, diverting the police's attention to possible al Qaeda links.
The Radikal newspaper quoted police officers as saying that the assault did not resemble an al Qaeda attack, noting that the fundamentalist group preferred bombings rather than shootouts.
One official said, �This attack could have been planned by just four people.�
Daily: Fourth suspect innocent:
According to daily Milliyet, the fourth suspect was a person who drove one of many unregistered taxis in the city and had no idea about the intentions of the three passengers he was driving to the U.S. Consulate.
Milliyet said the driver surrendered to police late Thursday, admitting he was the fourth person who was being sought by the police. He was persuaded by his family to surrender, it was said.
The police found no links to any terrorist group, but are still investigating the driver's past, the daily said.
Ties to Ergenekon?
Daily Sabah quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying that the attack seemed more similar to one that could have been planned by Ergenekon rather than al Qaeda.
Ergenekon is the name of a terrorist group accused of trying to create tension and disturbance in order to topple the government and the investigation has led to the arrest of close to 60 people, including two retired generals, a party leader and several businessmen.
The Interior Ministry official based his argument on the belief that the attackers were not professional, used guns rather than explosives and had nationalist or petty crime histories.
The official said he believed the attack was perpetrated by the Ergenekon group in order to divert the attention of the police.
US security officials had no weapons:
After several newspapers criticized the failure of American security officials in the U.S. Consulate to act against the attackers, U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson said Friday that the reason why they did not act was because they were unarmed at that time of the day.
He said the gates with an auto-lock mechanism aimed to protect both consulate personnel and Turks inside the compound.