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Middle East

Kurd shot dead in clash over statue with Turkish forces

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants on the front line in Makhmur August 9, 2014. (REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: A Kurdish protester was shot dead and two others were wounded in southeastern Turkey Tuesday in clashes with security forces dismantling a statue of a prominent Kurdish militant, a local rights group said.

The protesters in the Lice district of Diyarbakir, the main regional city, were trying to stop authorities from demolishing the statue of Mahsum Korkmaz, the first field commander of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group.

The head of the Diyarbakir office of Turkey's Human Rights Association (IHD), Raci Bilici, said Mehdi Taskin, 24, was shot in the head during the clashes. One of the two wounded had four bullet wounds, he said.

There was no immediate comment from the security forces or the local authorities.

The PKK, considered a terrorist group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States, waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkey to push greater Kurdish rights but hostilities have largely died down since a March 2013 cease-fire.

PKK guerrillas have meanwhile rushed to the assistance of Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq, battling the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants and finding themselves on the same side as the United States, which has carried out airstrikes in support of the Kurdish forces.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan told pro-Kurdish lawmakers visiting him at the weekend that his movement's war with the Turkish state was nearing its end, while prime minister and president-elect Tayyip Erdogan has made the Kurdish peace process one of his priorities.

But mutual suspicion still runs high in some parts of the southeast between Kurdish communities and the security forces in what has essentially been a militarized zone since the 1990s.

A court ordered the demolition of the statue in Lice on Monday after it was erected in a cemetery last week to mark the 30th anniversary of the PKK's first armed attack against Turkish forces, led by Korkmaz.

Turkey began peace talks with Ocalan in 2012, and last month parliament approved a legal framework for the process for the first time, an important step towards ending the insurgency.

Erdogan has staked considerable political capital in the Kurdish peace efforts, broadening cultural and language rights for Kurds at the risk of alienating some of his own nationalist grassroots support.

Kurds account for around a fifth of Turkey's population and their backing could boost Erdogan's chances of changing the constitution to strengthen the powers of the presidency after he takes office at the end of the month.

 

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Summary

A Kurdish protester was shot dead and two others were wounded in southeastern Turkey Tuesday in clashes with security forces dismantling a statue of a prominent Kurdish militant, a local rights group said.

The protesters in the Lice district of Diyarbakir, the main regional city, were trying to stop authorities from demolishing the statue of Mahsum Korkmaz, the first field commander of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group.

The PKK, considered a terrorist group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States, waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkey to push greater Kurdish rights but hostilities have largely died down since a March 2013 cease-fire.


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