Historic mosque near Tahir Elçi murder scene set on fire

Historic mosque near Tahir Elçi murder scene set on fire

DİYARBAKIR – Anadolu Agency
Historic mosque near Tahir Elçi murder scene set on fire

AA photo

A historic mosque near the murder scene of prominent lawyer Tahir Elçi in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır has been set on fire during clashes between security forces and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.

The Kurşunlu Mosque, a 500-year-old mosque built during the Ottoman era, caught fire yesterday during clashes in Sur, a historical district in Diyarbakır where Diyarbakır Bar Association head Tahir Elçi along with two police officers were killed in a shootout on Nov. 28. Firefighters were reportedly unable to extinguish the fire because of the nearby clashes.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the mosque caught fire when PKK militants attacked the historic artifact with hand grenades and that militants had previously attacked the mosque with long-barreled weapons causing severe damage to its gate, outer walls and windows. 

The indeterminate curfew in Sur, meanwhile, was set to enter its seventh day today, with military operations reportedly ongoing to clear the town of militants.

Having been subjected to several curfews so far, Sur once more hit the headlines in late November when Elçi was shot dead on Nov. 28 as he coincidentally delivered a press statement to condemn special forces teams for damaging the base of Diyarbakır’s famous Four-Legged Minaret.

No steps taken in Elçi’s murder, HDP says

The incident came as a Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy said Turkey’s judiciary had thus far failed to take steps to bring the perpetrators of Elçi’s murder to light.

“The judiciary has so far not taken any step to solve the killing of Elçi. Step by step, it is paving the path to impunity,” said Meral Danış Beştaş, an Adana deputy and co-deputy chair of the HDP, said yesterday. 

Elçi was killed in Sur on Nov. 28 in broad daylight while he was making a public statement. 

Probe not yet concluded

Security forces have yet to conclude whether it was an assassination or whether he was killed in a clash between police and militants. The bullet that killed Elçi was fired from behind his back, Beştaş said.

“This is clear and it will also be revealed through criminal investigation. I also visited the mortuary. It was a single bullet fired from behind his back, from the point where the police officers were located. These facts are enough to show that a deliberate murder was committed … a target was aimed at,” she said.

“I’m calling on the investigative authorities, the judiciary, the Interior Ministry, and the government: The whole of Turkey is discussing Elçi’s murder. There has been a serious reaction in the international field. There is a serious effort to resolve the incident on the part of human rights and legal institutions. Do not protect the murderers any more. The murderers that you have protected and acquitted in the past are known by everybody. Don’t add another new case to these,” Beştaş added. 

Refuting the HDP’s claims that Elçi was killed by a bullet fired from a police weapon, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has said PKK militants are to blame.

International rights groups have called on Ankara to pursue a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

“It is imperative that the Turkish authorities promptly and effectively investigate the full circumstances behind Elçi’s killing and bring those responsible to justice,” Human Rights Watch has said. 

Andrew Gardner, the Turkey researcher of Amnesty International, said the investigation “already smacks of a cover up.” 

“The circumstances of his killing are far from clear ... the chances of establishing the facts and the identity of the perpetrator(s) appear remote,” Gardner said.