(CNN) -- Three U.S. Navy sailors were assaulted and had bags placed over their heads during a stop in Istanbul, Turkey, according to U.S. military officials.
The incident, captured on video, happened Wednesday when sailors from the USS Ross were attacked by members of the Turkish Youth Union, according to local Turkish press accounts.
A statement posted on the Turkish Youth Union website said the bags were placed on the sailors’ heads to protest American “imperialism” in the Middle East and other areas.
“Long live oppressed nation’s war against imperialism,” the statement said.
Capt. Greg Hicks, a spokesman with U.S. European Command, told CNN that “U.S. Navy officials are working with the embassy and (Navy investigators) to investigate the incident. The three sailors were unharmed and are safely back aboard. They did not require medical attention.”
The assailants appeared to be Turkish neo-nationalists shouting slogans including, “Yankee Go Home,” according to local press accounts. They did not appear to be tied to ISIS, which is based in neighboring Syria. Instead, they carried Turkish flags and a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Westernizing, secular founder of the Turkish republic.
“The incident does not reflect the hospitality nor the welcome reception our ships receive in port in Turkey,” Hicks went on to say, and added that leave for sailors from the ship was canceled for the remainder of the day.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning the attack, “which is in no way tolerable.”
The United States Embassy in Ankara also condemned the attack through its official Twitter feed.
“We condemn today’s attack in Istanbul, and have no doubt the vast majority of Turks would join us in rejecting an action that so disrespects Turkey’s reputation for hospitality,” the tweet said.
It is not the first time the Turkish Youth Union has harassed allied NATO soldiers visiting Turkey.
Last year, members of the same, hard-line secularist group physically confronted German soldiers. They were deployed along with a Patriot missile battery that had been requested by the Turkish government to protect border cities from the threat of aerial attacks from neighboring Syria. During that incident, the militants also reportedly tried to stuff sacks over their heads.
The bags over the head is a reference to when U.S. forces in northern Iraq detained Turkish special forces soldiers in 2003, who were allegedly smuggling weapons to a Turkish-backed group in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
The American forces put bags over the heads of the Turkish troops during the detention, before eventually releasing them back to their NATO ally. The move incensed Turkish society. The incident was portrayed in a a popular Turkish film.
CNN’s Ivan Watson, Samira Said and Hande Atay contributed to this report.
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