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 Forty-five killed in attack on Kurdish wedding party in SE Turkey

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Forty-five killed in attack on Kurdish wedding party in SE Turkey  5.5.2009  

May 5, 2009

BILGE, Kurdish Southeastern region of Turkey, Forty-five people, mostly women and children, were killed late Monday in an attack on a wedding party in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast believed to be linked to a clan feud, officials and witnesses said.

"Unfortunately 45 citizens lost their lives... There are six wounded," Interior Minister Besir Atalay told reporters in Ankara after the massacre in Bilge, a small village in the province of Mardin.

Initial assessments, he said, rule out the possibility of a "terrorist attack" -- a reference to Turkey's separatist Kurdish PKK rebels active in the region, adding that prosecutors were investigating the incident.

Turkish minister says PKK not behind Turkish wedding attack

Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay said on Tuesday preliminary evidence indicated that an attack on a wedding party, which claimed the lives of at least 45 people, was not the work of terrorists.

Atalay did not mention the Turkey's separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), active in the southeast, but suggested that his statement was ruling out their involvement.

Eight arrested in Kurdish wedding massacre

Eight armed suspects have been arrested over the killing of 44 people, including six children and 16 women, at a wedding in southeastern Turkey, Interior Minister Besir Atalay said Tuesday.

Villagers said the shooting might be linked to a dispute between families, or even a full-fledged blood feud.

Witnesses told AFP that four masked men, each coming from a different direction, hurled hand grenades and then opened fire at a crowd gathered in the village square, shortly after an imam, or a Muslim preacher, performed a religious ceremony.

The assailants then stormed into several houses, continuing to shoot, they said.

A local official relayed the account of a survivor, a 19-year-old woman, who said the attackers herded women and children into a room in one of the houses and then sprayed them with bullets.

Most victims were women and children, security sources said.

The assailants managed to escape in the dark as a sandstorm further worsened visibility in the area, several dozen kilometres (miles) from the Syrian border.

Blood feuds are frequent in Turkey's Kurdish-populated regions, where mediaeval traditions persist, illiteracy is high and many see the gun as a legitimate tool to settle scores and defend one's honor.

Hostilities are triggered by various reasons such as land disputes, unpaid debts, abductions or girls eloping with undesirable grooms.

Army troops sealed off Bilge after the incident and launched a massive operation to hunt down the assailants.

Ambulances shuttled between the village and Mardin city, where the bodies and the wounded were taken.

Television footage showed relatives wailing outside a hospital, some throwing themselves to the ground in grief.

The group has targeted local civilians refusing to collaborate with the insurgency, especially in the early years of its campaign.

Many men in Bilge were members of the so-called village guard, a government-armed militia supporting the Turkish army in the fight against the PKK.

There were 32 households in the village and all inhabitants belonged to the same clan, Anatolia news agency reported.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was closely following the incident, Atalay said, adding that he would travel to the village Tuesday, together with the justice minister.

Over 44,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK guerrillas have been killed since 1984 when the Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan). A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas,
the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union,
but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

Copyright, respective author or news agency, AFP | Reuters | Agencies


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