On February 1, what started as a normal day of business for US Ambassador to Turkey, Francis J. Ricciardone, swiftly changed into a nightmarish terror scenario when Ecevit Sanli, a deranged and angry 40-year-old Turkish man detonated a bomb at 1:15 pm outside the perimeter of the US Embassy in Ankara.
Ambassador Ricciardone immediately informed news sources that the guard killed was a Turkish national, later identified as Mustafa Akarsu – Kizilcahamam. Another Turkish national, standing outside the embassy was also injured.
Beyond the horror of terror and the immediacy of a bombing crisis, both of which are profoundly increased when brave men and women lose their lives, this incident creates a well documented opportunity to observe effective leadership in the wake of terrorism and the crisis created.
Ambassador Ricciardone has an extensive background working in US Embassies in several different nations. More importantly, prior to holding his explicitly diplomatic roles he was the Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs’s Task Force on the Coalition Against Terrorism. His leadership and response in the Ankara crisis display his expertise.
On three fronts Ambassador Ricciardone is successfully navigating the post-crisis opportunities and challenges that have emerged from the Ankara bombing.
First, he is working with local law enforcement in an attempt to identify, apprehend, and serve justice to whatever cell utilized Sanli as a suicide bomber. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, for planning the bombing. The US Embassy website shows that Ambassador Ricciardone has met with the local and national Turkish authorities in order to better understand the ongoing investigation and to provide any needed assistance.
Second, Ambassador Ricciardone has been very visible and sympathetic to the central aspects of the tragedy, namely the death of the perimeter guard on duty. Speaking at the Turkish national, Mustafa Akarsu‘s, funeral, Ambassador Ricciardone called him a ‘hero’ and mourned the loss of this ‘brave’ man and father with the late guard’s family and friends.
Third, the US Embassy website has been very open and clear concerning communication about the crisis. It is not hard to find information about the crisis, the individuals affected, the ongoing steps to seek justice, the cooperation with local authorities, the leadership and sympathy, and the measures that will be taken to avoid such tragedy in the future.
In short, Ambassador Ricciardone is filling his leadership role in the wake of crisis exceptionally well. He is an expert and a leader who is clearly capable of bringing order and vision to the table amongst the chaotic results of terror; it is a skill that he will hopefully not need to use again, but the type of skill imperative for an effective leader.