Political activists in Istanbul assaulted three American sailors Wednesday — at one point slipping plastic bags over their heads — in a daytime attack caught on video, U.S. Navy officials said. Turkish officials later arrested a dozen people.
The footage, which was uploaded to YouTube, shows about 20 members of the Turkish Youth Union shouting “Yankee go home!” in English and then putting the shopping bags on the sailors’ heads before they can run away. The sailors, who are assigned to the missile destroyer the USS Ross, which was on a scheduled port visit to Turkey's largest city, were not dressed in their uniforms.
Police in Istanbul later took 12 people into custody in connection with an investigation into the assault, although no charges were filed as of late Wednesday night.
Tanju Bilgic, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement, "We condemn this disrespectful act, which is in no way tolerable."
The Turkish Youth Union is described as a left-wing nationalist revolutionary group opposed to “American imperialism.” The sailors managed to escape without sustaining injuries and are safely back aboard the ship, naval officials said. Istanbul authorities told NBC News that 11 members of the youth group were being questioned at police headquarters.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara called the incident “appalling” in a tweet, adding that “the vast majority of Turks would join us in rejecting an action that so disrespects Turkey’s reputation for hospitality."
But the Turkish Youth Union said on its official website that the public harassment was in support of Turkish martyrs and meant to protest the deaths of those “killed by imperialism.” While anti-American sentiment is not pervasive in Turkey, some have disagreed with the U.S.’s military involvement in the region. The USS Ross was due to leave the Istanbul port Wednesday as scheduled.
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