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Turkey PM in defiant visit to Diyarbakir after attack

AFP , Friday 1 Apr 2016
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses his supporters in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey April 1, 2016 in this handout photo provided by the Prime Minister's Press Office (Photo: Reuters)
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Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday made a rare visit to the Kurdish-dominated city of Diyarbakir, declaring he was "not scared" after an attack by rebels that killed seven police.

The car bomb attack on a police bus in Diyarbakir Thursday -- which underlined the precarious security situation in the main city in Turkey's southeast -- was claimed by the military wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkish security forces have since the summer waged a relentless campaign to drive PKK militants out of urban centres in the southeast, leading to ferocious clashes that show no sign of abating.

Davutoglu began his visit -- which took place under heavy security -- by attending a funeral ceremony for the police killed.

In a symbolic move, he then took part in Friday prayers outside the Great Mosque in the central Sur district.

"They thought that we would be scared. But we are not scared, we will not waver and we will go right to the end," he said.

Pictures showed army snipers in position on the roof of the mosque. Davutoglu sought to make contact with the people, at one point kissing a baby.

"Perhaps they thought 'Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will not come to Diyarbakir for fear of these attacks'. But dear people of Diyarbakir, are you scared of them?" he added.

Parts of Sur have been under curfew since the military launched a major operation against the PKK in the area on December 2, with the clashes causing widespread destruction to the historic district.

In a statement coinciding with Davutoglu's visit, the PKK's military wing, the People's Defence Forces (HPG), claimed responsibility for Thursday's bombing of the police bus.

The rebels said the attack was in revenge for the actions of the army in Sur.

The premier's visit was his first to Diyarbakir since the operation began. He last visited on the eve of November elections.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this week that 355 members of the security forces had been killed in fighting with the PKK since a two-year truce collapsed last summer.

He also claimed 5,359 members of the PKK had been killed but it was not possible to confirm that toll.

Erdogan, currently on a high-stakes visit to NATO ally the United States, said the Diyarbakir attack showed the world the true nature of the PKK.

"We cannot tolerate this any more," he said.

The PKK formally took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 in an insurgency that initially sought an independent Kurdish state for Turkey's largest minority but which now focuses on autonomy and greater rights.

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