James Larsen has narrow escape from explosion in Turkish capital that killed at least 34 people
Australia’s ambassador to Turkey, who narrowly escaped a car bomb attack that killed 37 people and injured at least 100 others, has described the experience as ‘shocking and nerve-wrecking’.
James Larsen, who was in his car with his young daughter, was 20 metres from the site of the blast in Ankara’s diplomatic district.
‘I was stopped at a red light at a big intersection,’ Mr Larsen told Sky News.
‘Then I heard that terrible noise that you hear when an explosion goes off. ‘The bus and other vehicles were catching fire and exploding before us.”
Mr Larsen had just picked up his daughter Alexandra from a horse riding lesson and was driving back across town through the busy Kizilay Square in Ankara.
It was early Sunday evening. He was in his private sedan, not the armoured car used for official duties, which are now standard for diplomats since the 2003 Istanbul bombing that killed the British consul-general Roger Short.
“Our ambassador is somewhat shaken, but he is focused on doing his job and ensuring that any Australians that might need support in Turkey at this time are receiving it,” said the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop. “I don’t believe at all he was targeted. This was actually directed, as I understand, at Turkish soldiers.”
She added: “He is fine. All of the Australian staff and our locally engaged embassy staff are fine. I understand that no foreigners were either killed or injured in the attack.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she had spoken to the “slightly shaken” ambassador James Larsen, who was in his car near Kizilay Square at the time of the blast.
“He likened it to a bomb going off in the middle of one of Sydney’s busiest streets … it was a horrific sight,” Ms Bishop said.
The attack took place in the city’s diplomatic district, but Ms Bishop said she understood it was targeted at soldiers and that Mr Larsen’s presence was coincidental.