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Police block Kurdish lawmakers from Turkish town

By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN
  • Move made to prevent clashes between nationalists
  • Town tense after gunmen kill four police officers
  • Lawmakers say police ignored attacks on Kurds

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- Armed police carrying riot shields blocked a convoy of Kurdish lawmakers from entering a district in southern Turkey. Local government officials say the decision was made to prevent clashes from erupting between Turkish and Kurdish nationalists.

"There is still an expectation among people that these groups could attack each other, so we're keeping them apart, taking preventative measures with the police in the city and with gendarme along the border areas," said Hayri Sandikci, the governor of Dortyol district, in a telephone interview with CNN.

Sandikci said Dortyol is already tense after gunmen attacked and killed four Turkish policemen traveling in a vehicle there on Monday. Militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have been widely blamed for the attack.

"There was already some tension when we had the funeral of a martyr soldier last Wednesday," Sandikci said. "The reaction to the attack on the four policemen was even bigger."

Lawmakers from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Turkey's largest Kurdish political party, say they were traveling to Dortyol to investigate what they claim were a series of ethnically-motivated attacks in the wake of the deadly police shooting.

"The policemen died in the attack," said Ibrahim Binici, a Kurdish parliament member. "Then groups which organized very quickly raided the district headquarters of the BDP, broke its doors, damaged its goods. Then they attacked the shops and businesses that belonged to Kurdish citizens."

"These places were attacked because the owners were Kurdish," Binici added. "While these incidents were happening the police turned a blind eye."

Binici spoke to CNN while driving in a convoy of 20 vehicles, after he and other lawmakers were turned away from Dortyol.

Street clashes also erupted between Turks and Kurds in the western Turkish town of Inegol earlier this week.

This summer has seen a bloody escalation of the long-simmering guerilla war fought between Kurdish militants and Turkish security forces.

The PKK has been battling the Turkish state since the early 1980s. More than 30,000 people, mostly ethnic Kurds, have been killed in the conflict.