December 13, 2017
Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Riots in Turkey kill 21 over failure to aid besieged Syrian Kurds

At least 21 people were killed in riots across Turkey, the deadliest street unrest in years, after the Kurdish minority rose up in fury at the government's refusal to protect a besieged Syrian town from Islamic State.

Street battles raged between Kurdish protesters and police across Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, in Istanbul and in Ankara, as the fallout from war in Syria and Iraq threatened to unravel the NATO member's own delicate peace process with Kurds.

Across the frontier, US-led air strikes appeared to have pushed Islamic State insurgents back to the edges of the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani, which the militants had been poised to capture this week after a three-week siege.

Washington said its war planes, along with those of coalition ally the United Arab Emirates, had struck nine targets in Syria, including six near Kobani that hit Islamic State artillery and armoured vehicles. It also struck Islamic State positions in Iraq five times.

Nevertheless, Kobani remained under intense bombardment from Islamic State emplacements, within sight of Turkish tanks that have so far done nothing to help.

US officials were quoted voicing impatience with the Turks for refusing to join the coalition against Islamic State fighters who have seized wide areas of Syria and Iraq. Turkey says it could join but only if Washington agrees to use force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as the Sunni Muslim jihadists fighting him in a three-year-old civil war.

Turkey's own Kurds, who make up the majority in the southeast of the country, say that President Tayyip Erdogan is stalling while their brethren are killed in Kobani.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators who burnt cars and tyres. Authorities imposed curfews in at least five provinces, the first time such measures have been used widely since the early 1990s.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara that 19 people were killed and 145 wounded in riots across Turkey, vowing that Turkey's own peace process with Kurdish separatists would not be wrecked by "vandalism". Dogan news agency later said the death toll had climbed to 21.

At least 10 people died in clashes in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in Turkey's southeast, according to Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, who said an all-day curfew imposed there from Tuesday night would be reviewed on Wednesday.

Pockets of protesters defying the curfew clashed with security forces there later on Wednesday, local media reported.

Others died in clashes between protesters and police in the eastern provinces of Mus, Siirt and Batman. Thirty people were wounded, including eight police officers, in Istanbul.

Disturbances spread to other countries with Kurdish and Turkish populations. Police in Germany said 14 people were hurt in clashes there between Kurds and radical Islamists.

The unrest in Turkey, which has NATO's second largest armed forces, exposes the difficulty Washington has faced in building a coalition to fight Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, two countries with complex, multi-sided civil wars in which every country in the region has a stake.

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Tags:  Syria  Islamic State  US  attacks  Turkey  Kurds  

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