ISTANBUL — A heavily armed Libyan man opened fire at one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions on Wednesday, wounding a Turkish soldier and a security guard before police snipers fatally shot the attacker, officials said.
The motive for the assault at Topkapi Palace was not immediately known. But police said the man had entered Turkey only three days ago. Turkey supported the popular uprising that defeated Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
Police also said the attacker arrived at the scene in a car with Syrian license plates. Minutes before the attack, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had announced tough economic sanctions on Syria to protest its government's crackdown on an 8-month-old pro-democracy uprising.
Multiple gun shots were heard from behind the high walls of the Topkapi Palace before the attacker was killed, and some tourists threw themselves on the ground to avoid the violence outside the palace, 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 — including ornate courtyards, gilded treasures and dozens of rooms that once housed harems, 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 through the main gate, chanting in Arabic "God is Great!"
Istanbul's governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, said the wounded are not in life threatening condition.
Mutlu said the gunman made no demands and that police decided to shoot him when he refused to surrender.
Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said the attacker had entered Turkey on Sunday. The state-run Anadolu Agency, citing authorities, identified him as 36-year-old Samir Salem Ali Elmadhavri. Sahin said it was not immediately known if the attacker was affiliated with any groups or organizations in Libya or Syria.
A photo obtained by The Associated Press shows the attacker carrying a rifle and a cartridge belt around his neck.Comment on this story
"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," witness Idris 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.
"We ran we saw a soldier and a security guard laying on the ground," he said.
No tourists were reported hurt in the attack.
A spokesman for Libya's National Transition Council, Jalal el-Galal, said authorities in Tripoli have no information at this point on the Libyan gunman who carried out the attack in Istanbul.
Hacaoglu reported from Ankara, Turkey. AP correspondents Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Vanessa Gera in Tripoli, Libya, contributed to this report.