(Reuters) – A group of Turkish ultra-nationalists attacked three U.S. sailors on a crowded street in Istanbul on Wednesday, shouting “Yankee go home” and trying to pull hoods over their heads in an assault condemned by the U.S. embassy.
Video footage posted on the website of the ultra-nationalist Turkish Youth Union showed the attackers surrounding the sailors, calling them “murderers” and throwing orange paint at the men.
The attackers’ actions were an apparent reference to an incident in Iraq in July 2003, when U.S. forces detained a Turkish special forces unit, leading its members away for interrogation with hoods over their heads.
“Because we define you as murderers, as killers, we want you to get out of our land,” one of the attackers says in English, before the group chases the soldiers down a street lining the Bosphorus on the edge of Istanbul’s historic peninsula.
The U.S. embassy described the video, apparently filmed by one of the gang, as “appalling” and condemned the attack.
“(We) have no doubt the vast majority of Turks would join us in rejecting an action that so disrespects Turkey’s reputation for hospitality,” it said in a statement on its Twitter account.
Turkey has long been one of Washington’s key allies in the Middle East and is a member of the NATO military alliance, but anti-American sentiment runs deep in parts of society, particularly since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
A poll by the Pew Research group released at the end of October showed only 19 percent of Turks had a favorable view of the United States.