Assailants fire shots at US Consulate in Istanbul
Turkish police officers work near the site of an explosion - AP
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ISTANBUL: Two assailants opened fire at the heavily protected U.S. Consulate building in Istanbul on Monday, touching off a gunfight with police before fleeing the scene, Turkish media reports said.

One of the assailants, a woman, was later captured at a nearby building and hospitalized. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed police sources, said she has been identified as a member of a banned leftist group. The Istanbul governor’s office said police were searching for a second woman involved in the attack.

Anadolu named the captured assailant as 42-year-old Hatice Asik and said she is a member of the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front, or DHKP-C. The group claimed responsibility for a 2013 suicide attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, which killed a Turkish security guard.

No one else was injured in the onslaught.

Hours earlier an overnight bomb attack at a police station in Istanbul injured three policemen and seven civilians and caused a fire that collapsed part of the three-story building. Police said the assailants exploded a car bomb near the station. Unknown assailants later fired on police inspecting the scene of the explosion, sparking another gunfight with police that killed a member of the police inspection team and two assailants.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility and it was not known if the attack on the police was connected to the Consulate assault.

Also Monday, Kurdish rebels in the southeastern province of Sirnak fired at a helicopter carrying conscripts who either had finished their term of duty or were taking leave, killing one of them and injuring another, the military said. Four police were also killed in Sirnak province when their armored vehicle was attacked with a roadside bomb, the Dogan news agency reported.

The Kurdish rebel group and the DHKP-C both have Marxist origins and have cooperated in the past.

The attacks come at a time of a sharp spike in violence between Turkey’s security forces and rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Turkey is also taking a more active role against Islamic State militants. Last month it conducted aerial strikes against IS positions in Syria and agreed to let the U.S.-led coalition use its bases for its fight against IS. The move followed a suicide bombing blamed on IS which killed 32 people and IS militants firing at Turkish soldiers from across the border in Syria, killing one soldier.

On Sunday, the U.S. military announced that a detachment of six F-16 fighter jets and some 300 personnel have arrived at Turkey’s southern Incirlik Air Base to join the fight against IS militants.

Turkey last month carried out a major security sweep, detaining some 1,300 people suspected of links to terror organizations, including the PKK, IS and the DHKP-C.

The U.S. Embassy said U.S. officials were working with Turkish authorities to investigate the incident. The consulate would remain closed to the public until further notice, it said.

Police wearing flak jackets and holding machine guns blocked off streets leading to the consulate. The building, which is surrounded by fortified walls, was intact and its flag was flying.

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