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World - Europe

Clampdown in Istanbul: Authorities fear new Kurdish attacks


In this story:

Measures taken 'in cold blood'

Ankara government faces political uprising


March 16, 1999
Web posted at: 11:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Citing threats of more violence after a bloody weekend, Turkish authorities imposed a state of alert in Istanbul on Tuesday.

The clampdown comes after after a series of attacks in the past month, including a Molotov cocktail attack on an Istanbul department store on Saturday that killed 13.

"We strongly believe in the possibility that terrorist actions will continue from now on," Istanbul Gov. Erol Cakir said Tuesday.

Cakir called for the imposition of new security measures in a wide range of commercial and public facilities, and extra police vehicles stood outside Istanbul landmarks such as the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.

The governor blamed the attacks on the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which threatened a widespread campaign against the Turkish government on Monday.

Turkish commandos captured PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Kenya in February and brought him back to face trial on treason charges. The Kurdish separatists have been fighting for autonomy for Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast for 15 years.

Measures taken 'in cold blood'

"We have to take necessary measures with care and in cold blood," Cakir told reporters.

The PKK declared all Turkey a war zone on Monday and threatened to carry out attacks in tourist resorts. Several Western countries, including the United States, have issued travel advisories for their citizens.

Police in Istanbul rounded up leftist demonstrators marking the killing of seven students in a 1978 bomb attack, putting about 1,000 officers outside a downtown university campus.

In addition to Saturday's attack on the department store -- which, despite building codes, was not equipped with fire escapes -- attacks over the past month have injured 45 people, Cakir said.

Ocalan is being held on a prison island off Istanbul's shore, and Turkish officials hold him responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands in the decade and a half of struggle. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Ankara government faces political uprising

In Ankara, the government of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has been riding high in the polls since Ocalan's capture February 15, but Ecevit was faced Tuesday with suppressing an uprising in Turkey's parliament.

Ecevit's interim government stands in April 18 elections, and the combination of Kurdish unrest and political uncertainty has shaken Turkish politics. Ecevit said that one-two punch already has weakened Turkey's economy: Turkish stock markets dropped more than three percent on Tuesday.

"We had seen economic improvement. Now it has started to regress," he said. "I hope this chaos will end as soon as possible."

The Islamist Virtue Party, which holds 144 seats in Turkey's 550-member parliament, is threatening to push a censure motion if Ecevit does not agree to abolish a law that bans "provoking hatred." The law has been used to prosecutor prominent Islamists.

The Islamists are joined by a group of roughly 90 secularist deputies, angered by their exclusion from candidate lists and seeking to limit party leaders' power. Whether the disgruntled lawmakers have the 276 votes to bring down Ecevit's government before the elections is unclear.

On Saturday, 268 lawmakers defied Ecevit by voting to extend a special parliamentary session into Tuesday. A vote on a censure motion could be held in 10 days.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Woman injured in blast in Ankara
March 15, 1999
Fear rises in Istanbul after another deadly attack
March 14, 1999
Armed attackers torch crowded store, killing 13
March 13, 1999

Crisis in Turkey : Kurd Terrorists and Corrupt Parties -
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