ISTANBUL — A heavily armed Libyan man wounded a Turkish soldier and a security guard at one Istanbul's main tourist attractions Wednesday before police snipers shot him dead, officials said.
Multiple gun shots were heard from behind high walls of the Topkapi Palace before the attacker was killed, officials and witnesses said.
Topkapi Palace, the seat of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years, is located in the city's historic Sultanahmet district, which also includes, the Blue Mosque and the former Byzantine church of Haghia Sophia. The Palace, with its harem, its ornate courtyards and gilded treasures, attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Witnesses said the man shot the soldier in the leg and the guard in the abdomen before running into the palace courtyard, chanting in Arabic "God is Great!"
Istanbul's Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said the wounded are not in life threatening condition. He said the authorities are trying to determine the motive for the attack. Turkey supported the popular uprising in Libya against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi. It also faces attacks from radical Islamists, leftist groups as well as Kurdish militants fighting for autonomy in the country's southeast.
Mutlu said the gunman had no demands and police decided to shoot him when he refused to surrender.
Turkey's Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said the attacker had entered Turkey on Sunday. State-run TRT television, citing authorities, identified him as 36-year-old Samir Selam Ali.
A photo obtained by The Associated Press shows the attacker carrying a rifle and a cartridge belt around his neck.
"I saw the gunman carrying a gun on his shoulder, like a hunter. He had ammunition around his neck and a backpack. His overcoat was buttoned, I couldn't see what was underneath," Cengiz told AP television. "He was coming toward us and my friend said he looked like a hunter so I asked him in English 'Are you a hunter?' He said something in Arabic which I didn't understand. Then he said 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great)."
Cengiz said he and his friend heard the gun shots moments later.
"When we ran we saw a soldier and a security guard laying on the ground," he said.
Some tourists also threw themselves on the ground in panic, Cengiz said. There were no other reports of injuries in the attack.
Hacaoglu reported from Ankara. Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara, Turkey.