One dead in attack on Kurdish party campaign bus in Turkey
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One dead in attack on Kurdish party campaign bus in Turkey

Clashes break out in the northeastern city as 1,000 Turkish nationalists storm Kurdish rally

Turkish riot policemen grab a man during clashes  in Erzurum between Turkish nationalists and supporters of pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) on June 4, 2015. (AFP/Ihlas News Agency)
Turkish riot policemen grab a man during clashes in Erzurum between Turkish nationalists and supporters of pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) on June 4, 2015. (AFP/Ihlas News Agency)

ANKARA — Assailants fired Wednesday on a campaign vehicle belonging to Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party and killed its driver.

It is the latest violence targeting politicians or parties ahead of Sunday’s general election.

The governor’s office for Bingol province said the 35-year-old driver was found shot dead near the hired minibus of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) late Wednesday. It said an investigation had been launched.

On Thursday, clashes broke out in the northeastern city of Erzurum when around 1,000 Turkish nationalists stormed an HDP rally there, according to AFP.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said dozens of people were injured. A minibus driver suffered severe burns when his vehicle, covered with HDP flags, was set on fire, Dogan news agency said.

Private NTV television showed the demonstrators breaking through the police barricades chanting “This is Erzurum, there is no way out from here” and “God is greatest,” before security forces responded with tear gas and water cannon.

Turkish riot police use teargas against nationalist protesters against a rally by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) in Erzurum, June 4, 2015. (AP)
Turkish riot police use teargas against nationalist protesters against a rally by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) in Erzurum, June 4, 2015. (AP)

The rally went ahead and the HDP blamed the clashes on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who have often spoken out against the Kurdish party.

“If the prime minister and president target us; if they call us traitors who are trying to divide the country, then some people see it as their duty to attack us,” HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas told supporters in Erzurum.

HDP chairman Selahattin Demirtas, right, welcomes former Turkish President Abdullah Gul outside the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 7, 2014 (AP)
HDP chairman Selahattin Demirtas, right, welcomes former Turkish President Abdullah Gul outside the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 7, 2014 (AP)

Demirtas’s appearance had been seen as a bold statement in a region where his party is far from popular, as it tries to win votes from outside its southeastern Kurdish-majority heartland.

The HDP has long been accused by Turkish nationalists of being linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long armed insurgency in the southeast for Kurdish autonomy.

The bus attack comes weeks after bomb explosions at two local HDP offices injured six people in Adana Mersin and days after officials said two supporters of a small Islamist party were killed in a fight with Kurdish party supporters in southeastern Turkey.

The HDP, which has expanded its appeal beyond Turkey’s Kurdish regions and is attracting liberal and left-wing voters from the rest of Turkey, is playing a key role in the election. Should the HDP pass the 10-percent threshold, it would become more difficult for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reach his goal of changing the constitution to boost his presidential powers.

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