Kurdish protesters ransack government office, set bank on fire in Turkey’s southeast

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Kurdish protesters attacked government offices and a bank while police fired shots and tear gas to scatter thousands of demonstrators Saturday in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast.

Thousands of Kurds in the town of Kiziltepe tried to march to the local headquarters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party to protest the deaths of eight people in five days in the southeast. One Kurdish demonstrator was fatally shot Saturday, said Nazmi Gur of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party.

Demonstrators threw stones and fire bombs, ransacked a tax office and set fire to a bank and the offices of the ruling party, according to local media reports. Armored personnel carriers hurtled down the streets and police fired shots into the air and sprayed tear gas to scatter the marchers.

A 27-year-old man was fatally shot in the head, Gur said. Kiziltepe State Hospital confirmed that the man died of gunshot wounds. Gov. Mehmet Kiliclar confirmed one death and said 16 people, including seven police officers, were injured in the clashes. Police detained some 30 demonstrators, he said.

One bank was set on fire while four people were still inside, private CNN-Turk television reported. A police officer wearing a gas mask went in to help them, it said. Television footage showed three people having difficulty breathing being lowered onto the sidewalk.

Police also clashed with demonstrators in Silopi, near the border with Iraq, and in nearby Yuksekova, the state-owned Anatolia news agency reported. Several people were injured.

The recent fighting pitting Kurds against Turkish police and paramilitary officers erupted following the funerals of Kurdish militants killed in clashes with the military.

The unrest in Mardin came a day after Erdogan warned parents to keep their children away from the unrest, and indicated the government would maintain a tough approach.

“For those who keep their children in the streets or allow them to be used by the (rebels), their tears tomorrow will be in vain,” Erdogan said.

“Our security will make the necessary intervention against those who have become the pawns of terrorism, even if they are children or women,” he said.

In Istanbul, which has a large Kurdish population, a bomb exploded Friday near a bus stop, killing one person and injured 13. A hard-line Kurdish militant group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, claimed responsibility and said the attack was a response to the recent violence in the southeast.

The group is believed to be linked to the main Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a group the European Union and United States consider a terrorist organization.

Twenty-one Kurdish rebels also have been killed in fighting in the southeast over the past few days.

In Brussels, Belgium, the European Union urged Turkey – which is seeking EU membership – to take urgent action to find a peaceful end to the clashes.

The separatist conflict waged by Kurdish guerrillas has left 37,000 people dead in the southeast region since 1984.

AP-ES-04-01-06 1637EST

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