US sailors ambushed by nationalists in Istanbul (VIDEO)

Three American sailors in civilian clothes were attacked on camera Wednesday in Istanbul by a Turkish nationalist youth group that threw balloons of red paint and barked slogans such as “Yankee go home!”

Around 20 members of the Turkish Youth Union, or Türkiye Gençlik Birliği, were captured on film participating in the ambush, which targeted a trio of sailors who had just disembarked from the USS Ross.

The sailors safely returned to the missile cruiser after the attack, but not before the demonstrators hurled insults and attempted to douse the Americans in paint meant to symbolize blood while calling the victims “murderers.”

Screenshot from YouTube user TGBİnternet Bürosu

"We want you to get lost and we are using our right to protest” and “Down with US Imperialism,” the group was heard saying. Other members of the youth movement tried to force sacks on the heads of the Americans in an apparent tip of the hat to a 2003 incident in which US forces arrested Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq and subjected them to similar treatment.

In a statement published in Turkish and translated by the New York Times, the union said Wednesday that the protest was staged in dedication “to our martyrs and to the millions of innocent people slaughtered by the imperialism in the Middle East."

Screenshot from YouTube user TGBİnternet Bürosu

"We find it ugly and disturbing. We condemn that attack," US military spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters in Washington.

"We have enjoyed a strong relationship with Turkey for many years,” the Navy said in a statement. “Turkish ports have long been very popular destinations for US Navy ships, and our sailors have enjoyed the warm hospitality that has traditionally been extended.”

Over Twitter, the US Embassy in Turkey said they found the incident “appalling,” adding, “While we respect the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, we condemn today’s attack in Istanbul, and have no doubt that the vast majority of Turks would join us in rejecting an action that so disrespects Turkey’s reputation for hospitality.”

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the director of the German Marshall Fundof the United States office in Ankara, described the youth brigade to the Times as a “fringe group” and said that while he believes the protest to be marginal, it nevertheless “will appeal to the wider public because it resonates with the national pride of Turks.” According to the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan American-based think tank, 64 percent of Turks hold an unfavorable opinion of the US.

“It will be interesting to see what the Turkish government’s reaction is to this incident and whether they condemn it,” Turkish expert and Foreign Policy Interrupted co-founder Elmira Bayrasli added to the Times. “If they skirt around the issue I fear that more attacks like this will be repeated.”

NTV television reported that a dozen people were subsequently arrested over their alleged involvement. Meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden remains slated to arrive in Istanbul late next week for meetings with officials representing Turkey, a NATO ally, which AFP said is intended to ease tensions between the countries as the Pentagon further pursues efforts to gain Turkish support in the multi-national campaign against the so-called Islamic State group in neighboring Iraq and Syria. Last month, Biden called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after alleging during a speech that Istanbul has been complicit in the Islamic State’s campaign by letting fighters use its border to enter Syria.

"If Biden told these words, then he will be history to me. I never uttered such remarks," Erdogan fired back. “He should apologize. I'm saying this clearly. And we won't accept slender, indirect explanations. Later, Biden “apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL (IS, ISIS) or other violent extremists in Syria,” the White House explained.