Erdoğan's police escort attacked; one dead, two injured
A police officer was shot dead and two others injured by unidentified assailants on Wednesday in the northern province of Kastamonu, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been speaking earlier in the day.
Erdoğan, who addressed his supporters in Kastamonu as part of election campaigning, left Kastamonu for Amasya in a helicopter briefly before the attack took place.
Sources from the Prime Ministry told the CNN Türk TV channel that one police officer had been killed and two others injured during a brief firefight between an armed group and police officers.
One police cruiser was also set ablaze. Special security teams were dispatched to the scene and police cordoned off the area.
Many ambulances were sent to the area, the broadcaster said. No further details were immediately available.
Television pictures showed Erdoğan subsequently arriving at another election rally in the northern province of Amasya, where he was greeted by thousands of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supporters waving party flags.
According to the NTV report a grenade was thrown at the police vehicle and gunmen opened fire as it burst into flames.
An eye witness told NTV television that the police vehicle, escorting a bus carrying journalists, turned into a "ball of fire" after an explosion. Reports said the vehicle was hit by a grenade, but the governor's office said the car's gasoline trunk exploded as a result of intense gunfire on a narrow road on Mt. Ilgaz.
Television images showed fire services arriving at the scene and smoke rising from the police car and an ambulance parked nearby, while security forces combed the hillsides.
Addressing a rally later in Amasya, Erdoğan appeared to blame separatist militants for the attack.
"Those dark minds, these terrorists, these separatists are only able to do this, those who understand there is nothing they can do through the ballot box," Erdoğan said.
The prime minister said his party will not allow the division of Turkey and that it is doing everything it can to avert a confrontation among Turkey's population of 74 million.
Observers say Erdoğan's comments implied that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) had orchestrated the attack.
Kastamonu province, on the Black Sea, is not known as a scene of PKK violence.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in a separatist conflict in southeast Turkey since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984.
"It is a very dangerous incident which we must take very seriously," President Abdullah Gül said. "Turkey will never bow to terrorism."
Opposition leaders united in denouncing the attack ahead of national elections on June 12.
Reporters at the scene said anti-terrorism squads, brandishing automatic rifles, pursued the attackers through nearby forests thick with pine trees, as smoke billowed from the vehicle and the sound of gun fire echoed through the mountains. Helicopters ferried special police squads to the area from the Turkish capital, Ankara.
State television said the terrorists have lately been active in the area - hundreds of kilometers from the rugged southeast, the traditional battlefield of terrorists and troops.
Authorities said the terrorists were trying to show muscle in areas outside the southeast as they wither under military operations.
The attack came hours after funerals for seven PKK members turned violent in the country's southeast when angry mourners attacked police with knives, stones and firebombs. At least six policemen were injured in the clashes in the cities of Diyarbakır and Hakkari, local authorities said.
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE), strongly condemned the terrorist attack from his Twitter account and said "terrorism, which is the biggest enemy of mankind, has no reason whatsoever and has to be defeated."
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