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Two killed in Kurdish ban protests

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-15

Two Kurdish protesters were killed and several others wounded in a south-eastern Turkish town Tuesday, after a local shopkeeper attacked demonstrators protesting against a government ban on the Kurdish Democratic Society Party.

AFP - Two people were shot dead and several were wounded Tuesday during a Kurdish demonstration in southeastern Turkey on the fifth day of unrest triggered by a court ban on the country's main Kurdish party.

The violence in Bulanik town, in the mainly Kurdish province of Mus, came after protestors attacked shops during a march to denounce the banning of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the town's mayor Ziya Akkaya told the NTV news channel.

A shopkeeper, armed with an assault rifle, opened fire on the crowd after the windows of his shop were broken and his vehicle was torched by the protestors.

Seven other people were wounded in the attack, the province's deputy governor Ali Edip Budan told the Anatolia news agency, adding that the assailant was detained.

The protestors stoned shops and banks along the route of the march and harassed shopkeepers who had not closed their stores in protest at the ban on the DTP, media reports said.

Closing shops is a traditional Kurdish protest method against the state and shopkeepers who refuse to do so are said to come under pressure from militant Kurds.

Television footage showed a crowd of several hundred people marching through the town and some pelting an armoured police vehicle with stones.

Black smoke was seen billowing out of a bank and a shop the protestors had set fire to with petrol bombs along a street that was littered with broken glass and debris.

"All the necessary security measures are in place and there is no problem at the moment. Police reinforcements are on their way" from the neighbouring province of Bitlis, Budan said.

Police also imposed tight controls on those entering or exiting the town.

There have been daily protests in the southeast and east of Turkey -- as well as major western towns with large numbers of Kurdish migrants -- since Friday when the constitutional court banned the DTP.

The court said the DTP had become a "focal point of activities against the indivisible unity of the state, the country and the nation" through its links to Kurdish rebels waging a 25-year insurgency for self-rule in the southeast.

The ban undermined a government drive, launched in August, to expand the rights of Turkey's estimated 12 million Kurds in the hope of ending the conflict with the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has claimed some 45,000 lives.

The plan, which the government insists it will not abandon, has already triggered a nationalist backlash for granting specific group rights for Kurds, while Kurdish activists have deemed it inadequate.

The DTP has said its lawmakers would boycott parliament and would resign from their seats "as soon as possible" in protest at the verdict.

Under house rules, a lawmaker's resignation needs to be approved by an absolute majority in the 550-seat general assembly and analysts say it is highly unlikely the ruling party would give its blessing to DTP resignations.

The party was left with 19 members in the legislature after two deputies, including party co-chair Ahmet Turk, were stripped of their seats as part of Friday's ruling.

The DTP says it has "no organic links" with the PKK, but has refused to brand it a terrorist group as Ankara and most of the international community do.

The ban comes atop already high tensions amid violent street protests over claims of worsening prison conditions for jailed PKK leader Andullah Ocalan and a rebel attack that left seven soldiers dead.

Date created : 2009-12-15

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