Turkish activists have assaulted US navy sailors in Istanbul and placed sacks over their heads, in what they say is a protest action against "American imperialism".

In a video posted by the Youth Association of Turkey (TGB), the neo-nationalist organisation that carried out the incident, about 10 protesters appear to be roughing up three US navy members. The footage shows them shouting "Yankee, go home!" and "Murderers!", demanding the US army members to leave Turkey.

The incident happened in the Eminonu district of Istanbul where the three navy members' warship, USS Ross, was docked on an inlet of the Bosphorus Strait.

The protesters, who carried a banner of the TGB, threw red paint at the sailors and put white sacks over their heads.

"You declared that you are a member of the US army. We define you as murderers," a protester shouted at the sailors.

Gizem Dogan, a senior member of the TGB, told Al Jazeera that the action was a response to what she called American imperialism, Washington's influence on Turkey's domestic affairs and an assault by the US military on Turkish soldiers more than 10 years ago.

Dogan said that they planned it a few days back and made sure that targeted men were US army members.

At the height of the war in Iraq in 2003, US soldiers staged an operation against Turkish soldiers based in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq, taking 11 Turkish soldiers hostage and putting sacks over their heads.

'Sailors not hurt'

The servicemen were not hurt and were safely back aboard the ship, according to Captain Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the US European Command, quoted by the US media.

The TGB's Istanbul office told Al Jazeera that the association's members who took part in the incident were taken into custody on Wednesday and were to be questioned by Istanbul prosecutor's office on Thursday.

The US Embassy in Ankara denounced the "appalling" attack through its Twitter account and said: "While we respect the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, 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."

Turkish foreign ministry also condemned the incident and called it "intolerable".

This is the third similar incident reported in Turkey. An American soldier was reportedly assaulted and a sack was put over his head in the Aegean holiday city of Mugla in 2012. In a separate incident, two German NATO troops were subjected to the same treatment in the southern city of Hatay in 2013.

Source: Al Jazeera