More Clashes in SE Turkey as Kurds Bury 3 Dead

DIYARBAKIR (Reuters)–Kurdish youths hurled stones and molotov cocktails at Turkish police and burned tires on Thursday in a third day of violent clashes–which have so far claimed three lives and wounded more than 250 people.

The fighting erupted when thousands of people attended funeral ceremonies for the three people–two young men and an eight-year-old boy–killed during Wednesday’s clashes in Diyarbakir–a major city in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast.

According to Kurdish officials–two of the three victims were shot by police.

Some of the mourners–ignoring calls for calm from local officials–attacked a police station they were passing. Police used tear gas and truncheons to disperse them.

In a sign that the unrest may be spreading–CNN Turk television said about 3,000 protesters had also fought with police in the nearby town of Batman. More than 10 people were hurt in those clashes–it said.

In Diyarbakir–a city of nearly one million on the river Tigris–most shops and offices were shut on Thursday. The Turkish army has stationed combat vehicles in the suburbs in a bid to discourage protesters.

The violence first erupted on Tuesday after funeral ceremonies for 14 guerrillas of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)–killed by security forces last weekend.

Diyarbakir governor Efkan Ala told a news conference late on Wednesday that police had detained around 200 people during the clashes–the worst seen in Diyarbakir in 30 years.

"This violence damages the image of Diyarbakir–which had been steadily improving … It will delay the flow of investment here that would curb unemployment," Ala said.

Political analysts say the riots are rooted in high unemployment–poverty and a belief among the Kurds of the region that Ankara is not seriously interested in improving their lot.

Under pressure from the European Union–which it hopes to join–Turkey has removed restrictions on Kurdish language and culture–but critics say it is too little too late.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government is also under fire from Turkish nationalists who view the concessions to Kurds as rewarding terrorism.

Ankara holds the PKK responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since it launched its armed campaign for an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey in 1984.

"We are now paying the price for Erdogan’s Diyarbakir adventure," Devlet Bahceli–leader of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP)–said in televised remarks.

Erdogan infuriated nationalists last summer when he visited Diyarbakir and said Turkey had made mistakes in the past in its handling of what he called the "Kurdish problem."

The PKK is also on the terrorism blacklist of the European Union and the United States.


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