Naharnet

Four Killed in Turkey Clashes between Rival Kurds

Three people were killed Tuesday, including the leader of an Islamist charity, in clashes between rival Kurdish groups in Diyarbakir, the interior ministry said, adding to tensions in Turkey's largest Kurdish-populated city days after legislative elections.   

Aytac Baran, the leader of the Ihya-Der charity group, was shot dead by unknown gunmen outside his home in Diyarbakir, prompting a gunfight that left two others dead. 

There was no information yet on the identities of the other victims. An earlier toll from the hospital sources had spoken of four people dead.

At least three journalists who were covering the clashes were injured, the Dogan press agency reported.

The attack triggered clashes between Baran's supporters and supporters of the People's Democratic Party (HDP), with the former accusing the HDP of being behind the attack, an AFP reporter said. 

But the HDP, which made a strong showing in Sunday's general election, strongly condemned the attack in a statement and called for a thorough investigation.

The party's leader Selahattin Demirtas called for calm. "A dirty scenario is at play. All parties should act with common sense," Demirtas wrote on Twitter.

Baran had been threatened by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) shortly before his assassination, his lawyer said in a statement quoted by Turkish media.

The youth wing of the PKK, the YDG-H, issued a Twitter message denying any involvement in the attack, which it called a "provocation".

Police arrested three suspects for possession of weapons, Turkish media reported, citing the local governor's office.

Turkish media reports said two of the injured journalists were working for the DHA news agency and one for the IHA news agency.

DHA said the reporters were beaten up while covering the attack. Two were released from hospital but DHA reporter Canan Altuntas was still being treated. 

Ihya-Der is linked to the Islamist group Huda-Par, known as the political arm of Turkish Hezbollah, a Kurdish Sunni Islamist militant organization.

Turkish Hezbollah has no link with the better known Lebanese Shiite group of the same name.

Violence frequently breaks out between Huda-Par and HDP members, who are seen by critics as close to the PKK.

The violence came after three people were killed and dozens more wounded in an attack on an HDP rally in Diyarbakir last week, in the final days of the election campaign.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that one person had been arrested over that attack but no further details have been given.

Demirtas suggested in an interview with broadcaster CNN on Monday that the Islamic State (IS) jihadists who have captured swathes of neighboring Iraq and Syria were linked to the attack on the rally.   

The HDP scored a stunning election performance, passing the 10-percent threshold for parliamentary representation to win 80 seats in the 550-member chamber.

Despite a peace process to end a decades-long insurgency by the PKK, southeast Turkey remains volatile.

Dozens of people were killed in the region in pro-Kurdish protests late last year over Turkey's Syria policy.

Source: Agence France Presse


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