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Dozens detained in ethnic-fueled conflict in western Turkey

ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires | 7/26/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Nearly 40 people have been detained in Bursa after a fight Sunday escalated due to ethnic tensions over the Kurdish origin of one of the families involved.

Nearly 40 people have been detained in western Turkey after a fight between two groups of people Sunday night reportedly escalated due to ethnic tensions over the Kurdish origin of one of the families involved.

The fight initially broke out Sunday night between two groups in the city of İnegöl, in the western province of Bursa, after three people were alleged to have stabbed six others in a coffee house. The conflict escalated after police detained the three suspects.

According to private news channel NTVMSNBC, the fight started over a disagreement between two families, but the course of the events changed after people started saying one of the families had a Kurdish background.

Local residents gathered in front of the hospital where the stabbing victims had been taken and the crowd quickly swelled to 1,000 people, demanding the suspects be handed over to them. Members of the crowd then began to riot, setting fire to police vehicles and damaging other property. Ten police officers were injured in the fray.

Gendarmerie and police units were called in from Bursa, but the rioting continued into the night, as the governor of Bursa traveled to the city to try and restore order. With police frequently opening fire into the air to push back the crowd, the conflict eventually cooled down toward Monday morning.

Bursa Gov. Şahabettin Harput said 39 people were detained and sent to Bursa, including the suspected ringleaders of the events. The majority of suspects were detained one by one at their houses after being identified from camera footage.

Harput and other officials – including the city’s local administrator, the mayor, the military commander of the region, representatives of political parties and the headmen of two neighborhoods in which the conflicts erupted – gathered Monday to discuss the situation, the private news channel NTV reported.

Interior Minister Beşir Atalay said Monday that inspectors and intelligence units had been sent to the city to ascertain the causes behind the riot. “It is not difficult to predict these kinds of events prior to the referendum [for the constitutional amendment package]. Our local administrators and police force’s days off have been canceled for the time being,” Atalay said, adding that the inspectors would go over the event in minute detail.

Gov. Harput said in a statement early Monday that it was sad that an ordinary security situation was provocatively recalibrated as being caused primarily by ethnic differences.

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