Turkey probes southeast clashes after death, kidnap

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Turkey has opened a probe into clashes between soldiers and villagers that left one person dead in the Kurdish-majority southeast, local officials said Saturday, as the army searched for an officer kidnapped hours after the unrest.

One demonstrator was killed and nine others were injured in Diyarbakir province’s Lice district on Friday when security forces fired shots to disperse some 300 people protesting against the expansion of an army outpost.

Diyarbakir governor Cahit Kirac said the army opened fire after the protesters torched construction tents and marched on the work site, hurling stones and molotov cocktails.

Hours later, a sergeant was kidnapped by armed groups in the same district, a source told AFP, adding that the army had launched an operation to rescue the officer.

The trouble shattered a lull in the volatile region, where the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has waged a bloody campaign for autonomy for nearly three decades, leaving 45,000 people dead.

The interior ministry has dispatched four inspectors -- two of them from the gendarmerie -- to the region to investigate Friday’s unrest, local officials said.

The PKK, labeled a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, declared a ceasefire in March and its fighters are still pulling out from Turkey into northern Iraq under the agreement.

Friday’s clashes came as Ankara continues to grapple with mass anti-government demos that have been sweeping across the country since a protest to save Istanbul’s Gezi Park was met with a heavy police crackdown on May 31.

A spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) accused unnamed plotters on Friday of trying to create the “Kurdish version” of the anti-government protests.

“For almost six months, there are no deaths, no bloodshed, no martyrs because of terrorism,” Huseyin Celik was quoted as saying by the NTV news channel.

“A lie machine is at work on social media ... aimed at creating the Kurdish version of the Gezi Park protests,” he said.

The demonstrations have so far left four people dead and nearly 8,000 injured, posing one of the biggest challenges yet to the decade-old government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

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