Unrest Rocks Southern Turkey after Violence in the West

Unrest in Southern Turkey

ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)—Unrest has hit two Turkish cities following massive street fights Sunday in the western province of Bursa and riots in the southern province of Hatay, where four police officers were killed Monday.

Assailants used long-range weapons to fire on a police patrol car Monday around 6 p.m. in Hatay’s Dortyol province, killing police officers Emre Yalcın, Hasan Aslan and Ali Hacıarap at the scene. A fourth officer, Fatih Yıldız, died at the hospital from his wounds. The attackers escaped in a silver-colored car, leaving more than 50 empty shells behind.

At around 8:30 p.m., police opened fire on a vehicle, mistaking it for the assailants’ getaway car and wounding one of the three passengers. Though the passengers were not considered to be suspects by the police, a group of roughly 500 people gathered at the police station, demanding the “terrorists” be handed over to them.

One of the passengers in the car, whose name was not reported but is from Mardin, was stabbed and wounded in the fray. Police were unable to transfer the wounded person to the hospital until after 10 p.m. because of the mob of people barricading the police station. Back-up teams from neighboring provinces and districts were sent to the area.

After the mob disbanded into smaller groups, the provincial office of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), was hit with rocks, pillaged and torched. The fire department intervened and put the fire out. More than a dozen workplaces belonging to citizens of Kurdish origin were also attacked in the rioting, which lasted until police managed to secure critical points in the city at around 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Later Tuesday, two groups of people at the minibus garage in Dortyol started throwing stones at one another until the police riot squad intervened with pepper gas. District Gov. Hayri Sandıkçı tried to calm the parties but one group refused to leave the scene “before the Kurds did,” referring to the other group. Sandıkçı then asked BDP District Head Mehmet Nisan for help convincing the latter group to leave.

The group identified as Kurds then began to march, with the riot squad accompanying them, chanting slogans in support of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Angered at the scene, the opposing group in the initial fight attempted to surmount the police barrier and attack. Police eventually succeeded in scattering both groups with pepper gas but uneasiness continued in the district as the Daily News went to press.

Yalçın was buried Tuesday in his hometown of Kadirli, in nearby Osmaniye province, while Hacıarap’s family in the southeastern province of Kilis received visits the same day from Kilis Gov. Turhan Ayvaz, Hasan Kara, a Kilis deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and other government and military officials.

Meanwhile, events in Bursa broke out Sunday night between two groups in the town of Inegol after six people allegedly stabbed and wounded five others at Cinili Mosque.

The conflict escalated after police detained six suspects of Kurdish origin and rumors spread that two people had been killed. Around 200 people gathered in front of the police station, demanding the suspects be handed over to them. The police tried to disperse the crowd by firing shots in the air but received a hail of stones in response.

Riot-squad cops and gendarmerie soldiers sent to the province eventually managed to disperse the crowd with pepper gas.

Fifty-one people were detained during and after the incidents, which left 29 police officers with minor wounds, with the exception of one officer, Ali Sen, who suffered a loss of vision in one eye after being struck by a stone.

The rampaging group damaged 12 police cars, burning three completely, as well as three municipality vehicles, three ambulances and three privately owned vehicles. The police station and four workplaces belonging to citizens of Kurdish origin were also damaged.

Bursa Gov. Sahabettin Harput deemed the events a “provocation,” saying the factors behind the urban unrest were alcohol and a disagreement over debts. Inegol Mayor Alinur Aktas also said the fight between two groups escalated when others under the influence of alcohol also became involved.

Mehmet S., one of six detained in connection with the original incident, was arrested by the court Monday while the remaining five were released pending trial.

Inegol Chief Public Prosecutor Mehmet Demirel said the investigation would be pursued from many angles, adding that the 51 alleged rioters currently detained in Bursa would be transferred Wednesday to the Inegol Courthouse.


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