Turkish police kills at least 19 in clashes with anti-ISIS protesters

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A person holds a flag as police uses tear gas and water cannon on October 7, 2014 in Ankara against demonstrators who protest against attacks launched by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgents targeting the Syrian city of Kobane and lack of action by the government. (Photo: AFP - Adem Altan)

Published Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Updated at 5:37 pm (GMT +3): Turkish police clashed with thousands of pro-Kurdish demonstrators across the country on Tuesday, as the protesters denounced Turkey's inaction in the fight against jihadists on the Syrian border, leaving at least 19 dead.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators who burnt cars and tires. Authorities imposed curfews in at least five provinces, the first time such measures have been used widely since the early 1990s, local media said.

Ten people died in clashes in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in Turkey's southeast, according to Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker. In live televised comments, he said an all-day curfew imposed in the city from Tuesday night would be reviewed on Wednesday.

Pockets of protesters defying the curfew clashed with security forces there later on Wednesday, local media reported.

Others died in clashes between protesters and police in the eastern provinces of Mus, Siirt and Batman. DHA news agency reported a death toll of 19 from two days of clashes.

The Istanbul governor's office reported 30 people wounded, including eight police officers, and 98 people detained in "illegal protests" in Turkey's biggest city.

Thousands of people had joined the demonstrations called by the main pro-Kurdish party, the People's Democratic Party (HDP), against Ankara's failure so far to intervene militarily against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists fighting for the Syrian border town of Kobane.

"I call on Turkish citizens for common sense and calm," Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said, speaking to reporters at Izmir Airport on Wednesday.

Similarly, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmas said Wednesday that the protests are "unreasonable" and "an invitation for terrorism and violence in Turkey."

In remarks to press during an official visit in Macedonia, Kurtulmus said "Nobody has the right to disturb the peace and stability in Turkey using developments in a foreign territory as a pretext."

The protests, which started Monday evening, were in support of the presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in the Syrian town of Kobani.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has vowed that Turkey will do whatever necessary to prevent the fall of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab.

But Kurds bitterly accuse Ankara of merely looking on as the town risks being overrun by jihadists despite dozens of Turkish tanks being deployed on the border.

”Violence will be met with violence”

Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala accused the pro-Kurdish protesters of "betraying their own country" and warned them to disperse or face "unpredictable" consequences.

"Violence will be met with violence... This irrational attitude should immediately be abandoned and (the protesters) should withdraw from the streets," Ala told reporters in Ankara.

In Mus, a 25-year-old protester was killed after being struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police to disperse the protesters.

In Diyarbakir, five were killed by gunshots in clashes between pro-Kurdish activists and Islamists.

Youths in the southeastern town had overnight torched a police vehicle, scores of other vehicles and shops and attacked government offices.

In Istanbul's Gazi neighborhood, largely populated by Kurds, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a protest by several hundred Kurds, an AFP correspondent said.

Elsewhere in Istanbul, one person was seriously injured after being shot in the head from close range.

Local authorities ordered a curfew in several Kurdish-majority provinces including Diyarbakir, Mardin, Siirt and Van.

In a measure unprecedented in the last years, the Turkish army has deployed in the streets of the cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van to impose a curfew.

Schools were closed in Diyarbakir and fights were cancelled, reports said. The protests had first broken out on Monday night but Tuesday's clashes were more severe.

Kurds have been particularly irked by the reluctance of Turkish authorities, who are concerned by Kurdish separatism, to allow Kurds over the border to fight ISIS.

They have warned that the fall of Kobane could mean an end to the peace talks between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey for the last three decades but has largely observed a ceasefire since last year.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan said in a message relayed by his brother that the government had until mid-October to show it was serious about the peace process.

"They (the government) are talking about resolution and negotiation but there is no such thing," he said.

"This is an artificial situation, we will not be able to continue anymore," said the statement carried by the Firat news agency.

"The state must take action... Can a peace process make any progress this way?"

Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) – considered the urban wing of the mountain-based PKK – called on "millions" to take to the street to protest against what it termed "IS brutality," using an alternative acronym to refer to ISIS.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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