On February 1, 2013, Hillary Clinton officially resigned as United States Secretary of State, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was sworn in as her replacement, and a suicide bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. The bombing, which White House spokesman Jay Carney termed "a terrorist attack," came a little more than week after Clinton gave congressional testimony about the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That attack killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.
Reports Of The Bombing
The attack occurred about 1:15 p.m. Turkish time when a man described as 40-years-old and wearing a suicide vest approached a checkpoint at a peripheral entrance to the embassy. When challenged, he detonated the vest killing himself and a security guard. Two other guards suffered wounds. All of the guards were Turkish.
Turkish and American officials were investigating the incident. A Turkish news agency said the man belonged to the leftist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front. The U.S. had previously put the group on a list of terrorist organizations. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said she had no information on whether the group had links to Al Qaeda.
After the Benghazi attack, the State Department ordered security reviews of American embassies and consulates. When asked if the Ankara embassy had undergone such a review, Nuland said, "this is one of the compounds where we have been making steady security upgrades over the last decade." She said that the two guards who were only wounded were, in fact, behind bullet-proof glass. "And in fact, there were other security guards inside the building behind the glass who were only shaken up by this," she said.
Nuland noted the Ankara embassy, built in the 1950s, was "due for a completely new embassy compound in the future." She said the State Department, at current reduced funding, can replace three embassy compounds each year. At full funding it can replace ten compounds each year.
Clinton's Last Day
Clinton received a full briefing on the Ankara attack on her last full morning in office. She then made calls to U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu. She expressed America's condolences for the death of the Turkish guard.
Clinton and Davutoglu reaffirmed their nations' commitment to fighting terrorism. Nuland said, "Both of them, in that phone call, committed to the strong and ongoing counterterrorism partnership that the U.S. and Turkey have had. This incident obviously underscores our - the requirement that we stay very closely lashed up on all of these kinds of issues, not just the investigation of this incident but counterterrorism more broadly across the region."
Clinton spent much of the rest of the morning saying farewells to colleagues in the State Department. Nuland said it had been "a whole week of saying goodbye."
Kerry's First Day
Meanwhile, incoming Secretary of State John Kerry officially left his Massachusetts senate seat at 4 p.m. At that same moment, in a private ceremony, he took the oath of office as the United States' 68th secretary of state. Nuland said Kerry will have a public ceremony and greet State Department staff and the press on February 4.
"Obviously, a difficult day for both of them for this to happen," said Nuland.
Kerry took the Secretary of State job fresh from a long-running chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran and the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate. He has specialized knowledge of Asia and the Middle East, and he has already traveled extensively on foreign policy missions for President Barack Obama's administration.