ISTANBUL -- Three police officers and three gunmen have been killed in an armed attack on the United States consulate in Istanbul, the city's governor said.
Governor Muammer Guler said one of the police officers died at the scene during what witnesses said was a 15-minute gunfight. Two died of their wounds at a nearby hospital.
Television images showed paramedics carrying out heart massage on one of those lying on the ground. The shirts of one of the men was ripped open. Blood was flowing from the head of another person.
Four bodies lay on the ground in front of the high-walled compound situated outside Istanbul city center, overlooking the Bosphorus waterway.
"They (assailants) were four people. Three of them got out of the car and fired at the police. I saw them dead afterwards lying on the ground and many more dead among the police," Enis Yilmaz, who was going to the consulate for a visa application, told Reuters. He said the other person drove off in a vehicle.
The Anatolia news agency said one of the dead police officers was working at the consulate while the other two were traffic officers.
Ulus Durgut, 24, who was going to the heavily guarded compound on the European side of Istanbul, said the gunbattle lasted 15 minutes.
"The terrorists were bearded men and had long hair," Durgut told Reuters, still shaking.
Police have launched an operation to capture the armed assailants who escaped.
Turkey has seen armed attacks from a variety of groups over the years, including Maoists, Trotskyists, Kurdish separatists, and Islamist militants.
The most serious incidents were in November 2003, when 62 people were killed in attacks by Islamist militants on two synagogues, a bank, and the British consulate. Since then, security has been stepped up at most major consulates and embassies in Turkey.
Four people were killed and 15 wounded in an explosion in Istanbul, before U.S. President George W. Bush visited the city in June 2004.