Turkey's premier to assure restive Kurdish population

Turkey's premier, flanked by the interior and justice ministers, arrived in Turkey's southeast to assure the restive Kurdish population on Monday that the government was determined to investigate allegations of summary executions by security forces, which sparked violent Kurdish demonstrations that left four protesters dead across the nation.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu and Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, flew to the southeastern city of Van on Sunday night on an unscheduled visit. The government apparently wants to show that it is determined to investigate allegations that Turkish security forces may have been behind a Nov. 9 bombing targeting a convicted Kurdish guerrilla in the southeastern town of Semdinli in Hakkari province. The investigation is sensitive because it involves members of the military, one of the most trusted institutions in Turkey. It also comes at a crucial time for Turkey which must deal with concerns about its human rights record as it begins membership negotiations with the European Union.

The allegations raised fears that security forces might have been carrying out a summary execution, which were common in the early 1990s in the fight against Kurdish rebels.

Authorities have charged three sergeants from the paramilitary police and a Kurdish rebel informant in the Nov. 9 bombing.

The EU, which started entry negotiations with Turkey last month, has already been critical about Turkey's poor human rights record. The European Commission recently said in a progress report that it was still uncovering evidence of torture and ill-treatment of minorities. The talks are likely to last at least a decade.

Erdogan has urged calm and promised to bring those responsible for the Nov. 9 bombing to justice. He rushed to the southeast region after a Kurdish demonstrator was gunned down on Sunday night in the southern city of Mersin. Hours before, Kurdish protesters had set an armored police car on fire in Istanbul.

Erdogan and his Cabinet members were scheduled to visit rugged Hakkari province, bordering Iran and Iraq on Monday, the Anatolia news agency said. His exact schedule was not released for security reasons.

On Sunday night, Kurdish guerrillas, who have battled Turkish troops for autonomy in the southeast since 1984, tossed two hand grenades at a police station in the southeastern town of Silopi but there were no casualties, a local official said.

The fighting in the southeast and violent demonstrations elsewhere troubled the government.

The killing in Mersin on Sunday increased the number of demonstrators shot dead during recent demonstrations over the last two weeks to four. Two other demonstrators were wounded in Mersin.

Three demonstrators were earlier shot dead in the southeastern town of Yuksekova, also in Hakkari province.

On Sunday, Kurdish demonstrators, carrying pictures of imprisoned Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan and chanting pro-rebel slogans, were shown attacking the police with stones and firebombs in several cities, private NTV and CNN-Turk television showed.

A couple of hundred Kurdish demonstrators, many wearing masks, set an armored police car on fire in Kucukcekmece, an Istanbul suburb, television footage showed, reports the AP. I.L.

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