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At least 2 die in Turkey-Kurd clashes

By Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz, CNN
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least two people shot dead in Saturday clashes, lawmaker from pro-Kurdish party says
  • Local governor's office says "attackers" responsible for violence
  • But lawmaker from pro-Kurdish party blames Turkish government for deaths
  • Violence unsettles peace process between Turkish government and Kurdish rebels

Istanbul (CNN) -- Crowds of mourners gathered Sunday to bury a young man in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir after clashes the previous day between Kurdish protesters and Turkish security forces turned deadly.

A member of parliament from a pro-Kurdish political party told CNN at least two people were shot dead in Saturday's clashes, with at least two more in critical condition.

The violence unsettled a peace process between the Turkish government and Kurdish rebels, who have been waging a guerrilla war in the predominantly Kurdish southeast for 30 years.

The Diyarbakir governor's office put the blame for the unrest squarely on what it described as "attackers," according to a statement released online Saturday.

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"As a result of an armed attack on security forces ensuring security on the Diyarbakir-Bingol road, two attackers were injured. One attacker was airlifted to Dicle University by military helicopter but lost his life despite all efforts," the governor's office said.

But Sebahat Tuncel, a parliament member from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, blamed the deaths on the Turkish government.

Tuncel told CNN that locals had been demonstrating for more than two weeks against the construction of new outposts for Turkish security forces near Lice.

"A week ago I was there and what the people there were telling me is 'We don't believe they (the government) are earnest about the peace process. People who are honest about the peace process would not be building more outposts,' " said Tuncel, speaking by phone from the funeral of Ramazan Baran. Baran, 24, died in Saturday's clashes.

For more than a year, the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in negotiations with Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The Turkish state, as well as the United States and the European Union, have long designated the PKK a terrorist organization.

The negotiations brought a relative lull to violence that has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 people in southeastern Turkey over the last three decades.

The Kurds are Turkey's largest ethnic minority. They were long the target of discriminatory policies, which banned the use of the Kurdish language and even Kurdish names.

Since his party was first elected to power in 2002, Erdogan has implemented a number of reforms, including creating a Kurdish-language state TV channel, removing the ban on the Kurdish letters "q," "x" and "w," and allowing Kurdish-language education in some private schools.

READ: Turkish cops harass CNN reporter on air

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