Death toll in Turkey climbs to 37 as interior minister presents grave cost of unrest
Protesters clash with Turkish riot police in Istanbul, Oct. 8. AFP Photo / Ozan KöseTurkey’s interior minister has presented the grave cost of recent violence in Turkey, noting that over 30 people have been killed in armed clashes between protesters demonstrating in solidarity with the Syrian border town of Kobane and groups opposing them since Oct. 7.
More than 1,000 people were being held in custody as of Oct. 10, Efkan Ala added.
“Since Tuesday [Oct. 7], 35 provinces have been affected by these incidents. In these incidents, 31 people have unfortunately lost their lives. Most of these people lost their lives during violent actions between opposing groups,” Ala told reporters at a press conference on Oct. 10.
Hours after his announcement, Turkish news agencies reported late Oct. 10 more deaths as injured protesters in hospitals could not be saved, putting the death toll at 37, including two police officers.
Ala was speaking after two police officers were killed and a police chief was seriously wounded in an attack in the eastern Anatolian province of Bingöl late on Oct. 9.
“Five terrorists who launched the attack in Bingöl last night were killed,” Ala said, noting that militants involved in another attack in Diyarbakır were also captured.
Some 139 security officers, 125 of whom are police officers and five of whom are gendarmerie officers, have been wounded, Ala said, noting that 351 people have been wounded in total.
“Of those people who imposed vandalism in our country during these incidents, 1,024 have been taken under custody and 58 have been arrested. Investigations about the others are still underway,” he said.
More than 1,100 buildings, including 212 school buildings, 67 police department buildings, 25 district governor offices, 29 political party buildings, blood donation centers belonging to the Turkish Red Crescent Society (Kızılay), 780 municipality buildings and more than 1,100 municipality vehicles, ambulances and police vehicles have been vandalized during the clashes, Ala said.
The latest deadly attack in Bingöl came at a time of growing tensions in Turkey, with local Kurds angry about what they see as government indifference to the situation in neighboring Syria, where Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have laid siege to the Kurdish town of Kobane.
The policemen came under attack in Bingöl city center while they were inspecting shops damaged in demonstrations earlier this week. No group claimed responsibility for the killings.
The same night, four people were killed in the southeastern province of Gaziantep in an attack that was allegedly initiated by far-right Turkish nationalist elements. Earlier in the day, soldiers allegedly strafed a funeral cortege for people killed in protests the previous day in Mardin, killing one and wounding others.
Turkish troops and tanks have been deployed to restore order, and curfews were imposed in five provinces – measures unseen since the 1990s when the region was rocked by fighting between military and Kurdish militants.
There was brief calm on the streets earlier on Oct. 9 after calls for restraint from Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, but that was replaced later in the day with gunfire and confrontation across Turkey’s east and southeast.