A group of U.S. Navy sailors were attacked by a group of Turkish youths during a routine stop in Istanbul. The servicemen, who were in civilian clothes, had red paint thrown at them and briefly had white sacks put over their heads.
In 2013, the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, was bombed in a terrorist attack.
Here’s what we know so far:
1. The Attackers Were Congratulated by ISIS
After news of the attack broke, a Twitter account, @ISIS_Med, tweeted congratulations to the attackers. The message referred to the U.S. servicemen as “kafir Americans.” Turkey, a predominately Muslim county, is a U.S. ally and member of NATO.
2. The Attackers Shouted ‘Yankee Go Home’
The culprits are believed to be members of the Turkish nationalist group, the Turkish Youth Union. As they attacked, witnesses say the attackers shouted “Yankee Go Home,” reports CNN. Prior to rushing the sailors, one of the attackers said, “Because we define you are murderers, as killers, we want you to get out of our land.”
3. Suspects Have Been Arrested & Then Released
The BBC reports that police in Istanbul arrested members of the Turkish Youth Union, but released them. Those arrested could still face charges of insult, injury and breaching laws on public protests. The Turkish foreign ministry called the attack “in no way tolerable.”
4. The US Embassy Condemned the Attack
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey condemned the attack in a series of tweets that ended with the message, “The vast majority of Turks would join us in rejecting an action that so disrespects Turkey’s reputation for hospitality.”
The Navy released an official statement on the incident:
An incident took place today involving three U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71), which is on a scheduled port visit to Istanbul, Turkey.
The incident, which was recorded on video and posted to the internet, shows approximately 20 individuals, claiming to be from the “Turkish Youth Union,” verbally and physically assaulting the Sailors while on liberty in Istanbul…
The U.S. Navy is currently working with the Turkish National Police and U.S. Embassy staff to investigate this incident. The U.S. Navy will continue to coordinate with Turkish authorities to review security procedures for future ship visits.
We have enjoyed a strong relationship with Turkey for many years. As NATO allies, we share common interests, and this incident will not diminish that strong relationship. Turkish ports have long been very popular destinations for U.S. Navy ships, and our Sailors have enjoyed the warm hospitality that has traditionally been extended.
4. The Sailors Are Back on Board the USS Ross
The sailors were from the USS Ross. The ship was stopped just outside of Istanbul in an inlet on the Bosphorus Strait on the Black Sea. The soldiers were on day leave in Istanbul, reports the Associated Press.
The incident is being investigated by the U.S. Embassy and the NCIS. The sailors were not seriously harmed and were safely brought back aboard the USS Ross. Speaking to CNN, a U.S. European Command spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks said:
US Navy officials are working with the embassy and NCIS to investigate the incident. The three sailors were unharmed and are safely back aboard. They did not require medical attention.
Sailors are forbidden from leaving the ship during the remainder of its stay in Istanbul. The USS Ross is a common site around the Black Sea, an area it patrols.