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More clashes in SE Turkey as Kurds bury 3 dead

Written by: Staff
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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, Mar 30: Thousands of Kurdish protesters lobbed stones and molotov cocktails at Turkish police today in a third day of street battles which have claimed three lives and wounded more than 250 people.

The fresh fighting erupted during funerals for two young men and an eight-year-old boy killed during yesterday's clashes in Diyarbakir, the main city of Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

The boy and one of the men were shot dead. The other man was crushed under a police armoured car, witnesses said. An investigation has been launched into the deaths, the governor said.

Some mourners, ignoring appeals for calm from local officials, attacked a police station they were passing. Police fired warning shots into the air with AK-47 assault rifles and sprayed tear gas to disperse them.

''We are angry about the three people killed yesterday, that's why we are here,'' said a masked man in his 20s.

The nearby town of Batman also saw street battles between riot police and up to 3,000 protesters today. CNN Turk television said 10 people had been hurt in those clashes.

Police have detained at least 200 people in Diyarbakir since the violence began on Tuesday during funeral ceremonies for 14 guerrillas of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), killed by security forces last weekend.

In Diyarbakir, a city of nearly one million on the river Tigris, most shops and offices remained shut today and roads were blocked by barricades of burning tyres. The army stationed armoured vehicles in suburbs to discourage protesters.

Paramilitary police protected key buildings, including the governor's office. Protesters have already targeted banks, shopping centres and offices of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). BAD PUBLICITY ''This violence damages the image of Diyarbakir, which had been steadily improving ... It will delay the flow of investment here that would curb unemployment,'' Governor Efkan Ala said.

In a sign of increasing political tension, Turkey's Interior Ministry said it was investigating comments by Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir expressing sympathy for the protesters.

Ankara suspects Baydemir, whose Democratic Society Party (DTP) seeks more cultural and political rights for Turkey's estimated 12 million Kurds, of having links to the banned PKK.

Political analysts say this week's 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.

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. Most of the dead were PKK rebels killed by the armed forces.

The PKK blamed Turkey for ignoring its peace overtures and called for more demonstrations.

''We are calling on ... the Kurdish people to carry on indefinitely their struggle through legitimate democratic action until a democratic solution is brought about,'' it said in a statement on its Web site.

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

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.

Reuters

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