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Protester dies in fresh clashes in southeast Turkey

Written by: Staff
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KIZILTEPE, Turkey, Apr 2 (Reuters) One protester died after police opened fire to disperse Kurdish demonstrators in southeastern Turkey today, raising the death toll in six days of street violence to nine, security sources said.

They said Siddik Ozer, 22, was shot in the stomach when police started shooting in the air to stop a protest march in the town of Kiziltepe near the Syrian border. They did not give further details.

He was among a crowd who had marched to the family of another protester who was shot dead in Kiziltepe on Saturday, they said.

Riots in the mainly Kurdish region erupted on Tuesday after the funerals of 14 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) killed in clashes with the military last weekend.

The past week has seen some of Turkey's worst civil unrest since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984.

Security sources said additional troops were being deployed to Kiziltepe, a town of about 100,000 people south of the region's largest city Diyarbakir.

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. But many Kurds view the PKK sympathetically.

Yesterday, police and protesters also clashed in the town of Silopi near the Iraqi border. The demonstrators threw stones and sticks at police who responded by firing tear gas.

A three-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.

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

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

REUTERS CH RAI1900

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