June 9, 2015 / 1:58 PM / 2 years ago

Three dead after attack on aid group leader in southeast Turkey

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Three people were killed in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast on Tuesday after an Islamic aid group leader was shot, touching off a violent clash, security sources said, two days after a historic election success for Kurds.

The motive for the killings was not immediately clear, although there have been sporadic clashes in the southeast in recent years between Islamists and supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Security sources confirmed that Aytac Baran, a leader of the Yeni Ihya Der aid group, was shot dead as he left his office in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. Two more people were killed in a clash that followed, the security sources said. They had initially said three people died in the clashes.

Three people, one with a pistol, who were believed to be connected with the armed attack were subsequently detained by police, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Yeni Ihya Der is linked to the Islamist political party Huda Par, which draws support from sympathizers of Hizbullah, a militant group active in the 1990s.

“He was martyred,” a Huda Par official told Reuters, referring to Baran, while the HDP condemned the killing.

“We expect those responsible for the attack to be revealed in a way that won’t leave any doubt,” it said in a statement. “We hope that credence is not given to any mentality trying to turn our people against each other.”

The head of Huda Par made a call for calm to its supporters.

“My friends, be patient. Don’t give in to your anger. Don’t give an opportunity to those who want to stir things up. Frustrate the chaos plan. (Stay) calm,” Huda Par chairman Mehmet Huseyin Yilmaz wrote on his Twitter account.

The attack came two days after the leftist HDP cleared the 10 percent threshold to enter the Turkish parliament as a party for the first time.

Last Friday, three people were killed in two blasts at a HDP rally in Diyarbakir. The party’s leader, Selahattin Demirtas, said on Monday a string of bombings targeting the party during its campaign had been linked with Islamic State militants.

Many of the HDP’s grassroots Kurdish supporters are sympathizers with the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a 30-year insurgency against the state in which 40,000 people have been killed.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Larry King

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