US suspends visa and citizens services in Turkey following potential terror threat

Absentee voting for US citizens in Turkey was also terminated

A general view of Istanbul's Golden Horn showing the Unkapani Bridge (R), Halic Metro Bridge (2nd R) and Suleymaniye Mosque (L top) on October 16, 2020. / AFP / Ozan KOSE
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The US has suspended all visa and citizens services in Turkey following “credible reports” of potential terrorist attacks targeting US citizens in Istanbul.

In an unusual announcement, the US mission announced the temporary suspension of services.

“The US mission in Turkey has received credible reports of potential terrorist attacks and kidnappings against US citizens and foreign nationals in Istanbul, including against the US consulate general, as well as potentially other locations in Turkey".

The report advised US citizens to exercise heightened caution in locations where people may gather, including large office buildings or shopping malls.

Absentee voting for US citizens in Turkey was also terminated. “US Citizens, please note that it is no longer possible to drop off your ballots at the U.S. Embassy or Consulates. We recommend checking if your state can accept your ballot by fax or email, or use a courier service,” the embassy tweeted.

It wasn't clear if the action was related to the potential terror threat or just routine procedure. A state department spokesperson contacted by The National was not immediately available for a comment.

Diplomatic staff in Ankara said that consular services would be suspended at the embassy, as well as at consulates in Istanbul, the southern city of Adana and the Aegean coastal city of Izmir.
Turkey has experienced a period of calm after a series of terrorist attacks from groups including Islamic militants and Kurdish separatists.

In 2013, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the US embassy in Ankara, killing himself and a Turkish security guard. A far-left radical group claimed responsibility for the attack.

In 2016, the US government ordered all civilian relatives of its Istanbul consulate staff to leave Turkey because of increasing threats from terrorist groups.

Turkey was hit by a string of attacks in 2015 and 2016 by several groups, including ISIS.

Also on Friday, in New York a judge denied a motion by a Turkish bank to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of funneling money to Hamas.

The lawsuit by the Henkin estate representing the children whose parents were killed in a Hamas terror attack in the West Bank in 2015, can move forward against the Turkish bank Kuveyt Türk Katilim Bankasi A.Ş. It accuses the bank of funneling money to Hamas. The government of Turkey is one of the bank’s major shareholders. A copy of the complaint can be found here.