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Kurdish rebels fire at soldiers guarding Turkey's opposition party leader

Published 25/08/2016

Bodyguards of Kemal Kilicdaroglu direct their guns towards a mountain as he gets into a car after an attack in Artvin, Turkey. (AP)
Bodyguards of Kemal Kilicdaroglu direct their guns towards a mountain as he gets into a car after an attack in Artvin, Turkey. (AP)

Kurdish rebels have opened fire at security forces protecting a convoy of vehicles carrying Turkey's main opposition party leader in the north-east, wounding three soldiers, Turkey's interior minister said.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party, told the state-run Anadolu Agency that he was safe and had been taken to a government building in Artvin province.

Private NTV showed tense scenes at the site of the attack, with plain clothes security officers pointing their guns toward the hills above a road where Mr Kilicdaroglu's motorcade was travelling and people hiding behind cars.

Interior minister Efkan Ala blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, for the attack. He said the assailants targeted a paramilitary police vehicle that was protecting Mr Kilicdaroglu's motorcade. Its driver was seriously hurt, while two other soldiers were slightly wounded.

Mr Ala said the security forces immediately began an operation against the rebels in the region.

"It is definitely the PKK and an operation has started against them," Mr Ala said.

Violence between the PKK and Turkish security forces resumed last year after the collapse of a peace process.

Ozgur Ozel, a senior Republican People's Party official and legislator, called the attack an "assassination attempt" that targeted "both democracy and a party leader who stands against terrorism".

He could not confirm reports that a rocket launcher was found at the assailants' position.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called Mr Kilicdaroglu to wish him well.

Mr Erdogan and Mr Kilicdaroglu have had tense relations, but Turkey's political leaders have recently been displaying unity since the failed July 15 coup attempt.

They appeared jointly at a recent pro-democracy rally and Mr Kilicdaroglu even agreed to meet Mr Erdogan at his controversial new palace in Ankara, breaking his previous boycott of the large complex.

Mr Kilicdaroglu was travelling to an opening of a municipality building and was scheduled to make a speech at the provincial capital. The party leader said he would not cancel his plans.

AP

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