Clashes in Turkey after deaths of two Kurdish protesters

Clashes in Turkey after deaths of two Kurdish protesters

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkish police on Saturday used tear gas and water cannon to break up a protest on the sidelines of the funeral of two Kurds shot dead during clashes a day earlier, an AFP photographer reported.

Hundreds of protesters set up barricades of burning tyres on a road in the Yuksekova district of Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey and pelted officers with stones.

The clashes come after two protesters, aged 34 and 32, were shot dead Friday in a violent confrontation with police, sparked by claims that Kurdish rebel cemeteries had been destroyed.

The local governor's office has denied the destruction of these cemeteries, where fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are buried.

On Friday, masked men lobbed Molotov cocktails and hand grenades at security forces, and local media reported there had been shooting between the demonstrators and security forces.

The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) vice-president Sezgin Tanrikulu slammed the "execution" of the two men, while the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) demanded Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologise.

Citing the autopsies, Turkish media said one of the men, aged 34, had been shot six times and the other, aged 32, twice.

Thousands of Kurds, some carrying the flag of the PKK, attended the two victims' funerals on Saturday.

Police also used tear gas and water cannon in Istanbul to break up a protest in solidarity with the two Kurdish victims.

The incidents come after months of calm between the Turkish state and the PKK, which declared a truce in March following clandestine negotiations with the country's spy agency.

However the process stalled after Kurdish rebels announced in September they were suspending their retreat from Turkish soil, accusing the government of failing to deliver on promised reforms.

The PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, launched an insurgency seeking self-rule in the southeast in 1984 that has claimed about 45,000 lives.