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One dead, 10 injured in Kurdish clashes in Turkey

Written by: Staff

KIZILTEPE, Turkey, Apr 1 (Reuters) One thousand Kurdish protesters set fire to two banks today and youths set up barricades in a town in southeastern Turkey where violent clashes with security forces this week have killed eight people.

Security sources said one protester died in the latest clashes in Kiziltepe and 10 people were injured.

''We are very sad about what happened to this man in the prime of his life,'' Cihan Sincar, the mayor of Kiziltepe, told Reuters when asked about the death.

''Our wish is that this trouble should come to an end,'' she said, adding that Ahmet Arac, who was about 24 years old, was shot in the head during protests in the town centre in the morning. It was unclear who shot him, she said.

The latest death brought the toll in this week's violence -- Turkey's worst civil unrest in decades -- to eight dead.

Riots erupted on Tuesday after funeral ceremonies for 14 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) killed last weekend by security forces.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said late yesterday children were being used as ''pawns of terrorism'' in unrest gripping the Turkey's southeast and warned that security forces could not guarantee their safety.

He accused those behind the riots of trying to split the country, saying, ''We shall never allow anyone to perform surgery on the unitary structure of our country''.

The latest clashes erupted near the Syrian border in Kiziltepe, a town of around 100,000 people south of the mainly Kurdish region's largest city Diyarbakir, where most of this week's violence has been focused.

About 1,000 demonstrators set fire to the branches of at least two major banks and a building used by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Youths set up barricades with rubbish bins and rocks on one street corner as armoured vehicles patrolled up and down the road. A mechanical digger cleared debris from the main street. At one traffic circle army marksmen crouched with rifles and observed the youths from a distance. ''The state is deliberately raising tensions and provoking the people. We will respond in kind,'' one man, Davut, 36, said.

Several protesters threw stones at a Reuters cameraman trying to film the demonstration.

Turkey's southeast suffers high unemployment and many Kurds want political autonomy and more cultural freedoms. They feel the state is hostile to them and express sympathy for the PKK.

PM WARNS MOTHERS AND CHILDREN Ankara regards the PKK as a terrorist group responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since it launched its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

Police and protesters also clashed in the town of Silopi, near the Iraqi border on Saturday. Demonstrators threw stones and sticks at the police who responded by firing tear gas.

A 3-year-old boy died of gunshot wounds on Friday in Diyarbakir and local media said he was killed after police fired shots over the heads of protesters.

Three children have died since the clashes erupted earlier this week. ''If you cry tomorrow, it will be in vain,'' Erdogan said in an appeal on Friday to parents to keep their children away from the clashes.

''The security forces will intervene against the pawns of terrorism, no matter if they are children or women. Everyone should realise that,'' he said in his harshest remarks yet on the Kurdish violence.

Diyarbakir, a city of around one million people, was calm on Saturday and shopkeepers opened their stores after keeping them shut at the height of the trouble.

Security sources said 198 people, including 31 children, had been remanded in custody in Diyarbakir since the riots began.

Ankara has lifted restrictions on the Kurdish language and culture in EU-linked reforms over the past few years, but critics say it needs to do much more.

The European Union, which Turkey aims to join, has expressed concern about the violence and urged Ankara to do more to combat poverty in the southeast and to boost Kurds' cultural rights.


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