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Two dead on third day of Kurdish unrest in Turkey

Latest update : 2008-03-23

Two people were killed on Sunday during clashes between Kurdish demonstrators and Turkish police in southeastern Turkey after Kurdish new year celebrations degenerated into protests. (Report: B.Harris)

A third day of unrest in the Kurdish region of southeast Turkey on Sunday left two people dead and two police officers injured, officials and witnesses said Sunday.
   
Violence erupted when celebrations to mark March 21 -- Newroz Day, or the Kurdish new year -- degenerated into protests in favour of separatist Kurdish rebels, and the authorities banned gatherings in some cities.
   
A 20-year-old man died from a bullet wound in Yuksekova town, where riot police clashed with hundreds of protestors who took to the streets in defiance of the ban, hospital sources said.
   
Two policemen were meanwhile slightly injured when a bomb, believed to be a small device designed to make loud noise rather than to kill, exploded in the street as the security forces chased protestors, witnesses said.
   
At least five demonstrators and another policeman were injured, as police fired warning shots in the air and used tear gas and water cannon on the crowd.
   
Shouting slogans in favour of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), masked youths hurled stones at the security forces, set barricades and fires in the street and broke shop windows.
   
Earlier Sunday, a 35-year-old man died in hospital from a bullet wound he sustained in clashes in the eastern city of Van on Saturday, doctors said. The local governor's office confirmed the death, but could not give details.
   
Police in Van blamed the unrest on the Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which organised the gathering despite a decision by local authorities to allow the celebrations only on Friday.
   
Dozens of people, including police officers, have been injured and more than 300 rounded up across Turkey since Friday when the disturbances began after initially peaceful celebrations.
   
Violence broke Sunday also in the western city of Izmir, home to a large Kurdish migrant community from the southeast, and 20 people were detained, Anatolia news agency reported.
   
The demonstrators attacked the police with chunks of concrete that they dismantled from the pavement, breaking also the windows of buildings and cars, the agency said.
   
The DTP provincial chairman in Izmir was detained Saturday after allegedly calling for a "Newroz rebellion", along with several other people who were in the procession throwing Molotov cocktails.
   
The largest Newroz gathering Sunday took place under tight security in Istanbul and was largely peaceful.
   
Thousands of people danced, sang and waved flags of green, yellow and red, the traditional Kurdish colours, as police helicopters overflew the event.
   
Police detained 14 people who brandished portraits of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and chanted pro-PKK slogans, NTV television reported.
   
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms for self-rule in the Kurdish-majority southeast in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed more than 37,000 lives.
   
Newroz is a traditional platform for Turkey's Kurds to demonstrate support for rebels and demand broader rights. Celebrations have been relatively calm in recent years, but in 1992 about 50 people died in clashes in the southeast.
   
More recently, in 2002, two men were crushed to death in a police crackdown on violent Newroz demonstrations in the southern city of Mersin.
   
This year's Newroz came in the wake of intensified Turkish military action against the PKK, including a week-long cross-border offensive against rebel hideouts in neighbouring northern Iraq last month.
 

Date created : 2008-03-23

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