Trump Condemns Ankara, Berlin 'Terror Attacks'; State Dep't Warns Against 'Jumping to Conclusions'
by PATRICK GOODENOUGH
December 20, 2016
A State Department spokesman on Monday chose his words carefully in condemning the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey and the killing of 12 people run down by a truck at a Christmas market in Germany.
He said he "couldn't rule out" that the shooting in Ankara may have been a terror attack, and referred to "the horrendous events" in Berlin.
President-elect Donald Trump had no qualms preempting investigations and calling both incidents - along with a shooting near a mosque in Zurich - "terror attacks."
"Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany - and it is only getting worse," he tweeted. "The civilized world must change thinking!"
Trump also issued a statement offering condolences to the family of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov, who he said "was assassinated by a radical Islamic terrorist."
"The murder of an ambassador is a violation of all rules of civilized order and must be universally condemned," he added.
Karlov was shot multiple times as he delivered a speech at an art exhibition in Ankara. The shooter, identified by Turkish officials as a 22-year-old Turkish riot police officer, shouted "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is greater) and referenced Syria and Aleppo, according to eyewitnesses.
Russia has given significant support for the Assad regime which, together with Iranian, Hezbollah and other allies, in recent days recaptured parts of Aleppo held for four years by anti-Assad rebels, including fighters of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra (aka Fatah al-Sham) terrorist group.
The governments of Russia and Turkey, which support opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, did not hesitate to call the killing an act of terror.
President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone conversation agreed on the importance of strengthening the international fight against terrorism, according to Putin in a televised statement from the Kremlin, and remarks made by Erdogan to Turkey's official Anadolu news agency.
"There can be only one response - stepping up the fight against terrorism - which the criminals will find out firsthand," Putin said during a meeting with intelligence agency chiefs.
But State Department spokesman John Kirby, asked during a daily briefing whether the administration views the incident in Ankara as an act of terror, cautioned against "jumping to conclusions."
"I certainly couldn't rule out terrorism as a motive or behind this - wouldn't rule that out at all at this early stage," he said. "But I think it's really important that rather than jumping to conclusions - particularly those of us who aren't there and weren't involved - that we ought to let the investigators do their jobs."
In his response, Secretary of State John Kerry used the words "assassination," "shooting," and "despicable attack."
In Berlin, 12 people were killed and dozens injured when a truck was driven into a crowded Christmas market outside a church in the city center.
Two German news outlets, citing unnamed security sources, said the suspected driver, who is under arrest, is believed to be a registered refugee from Pakistan or Afghanistan.
The deadly incident was reminiscent of one last summer in the French city of Nice, where 86 people were killed when a man drove a 20-ton truck through hundreds of people enjoying Bastille Day fireworks. Terrorist groups have promoted vehicle ramming as a terror tactic, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) claimed credit for that attack.
German authorities cautioned against calling Monday's Berlin incident a terror attack while investigations are underway.
But Trump in a statement said, "Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today's horrifying terror attack in Berlin."
"Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday. ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad," he said.
"These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners."
In a statement later, Kirby said the administration was "deeply saddened by today's horrendous events at a Christmas market in Berlin. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family members of those killed, and we hope for a speedy recovery for the many injured."
"The United States stands firmly with the German people during this time of national sadness, and we offer any support they may require," he added.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price, by contrast, said the incident in Berlin "appears to have been a terrorist attack."
Meanwhile Swiss police have declined to comment on a suspected motive after three people were shot and wounded outside a mosque in Zurich on Monday evening. The gunman fled and a manhunt is underway.
Courtesy of CNSNews.com
Patrick covered government and politics in South Africa and the Middle East before joining CNSNews.com in 1999. Since then he has launched foreign bureaus for CNSNews.com in Jerusalem, London and the Pacific Rim. From October 2006 to July 2007, Patrick served as Managing Editor at the organization's world headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Now back in the Pacific Rim, as International Editor he reports on politics, international relations, security, terrorism, ethics and religion, and oversees reporting by CNSNews.com's roster of international stringers.