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Turkish Nationalists Attack Kurdish Party Office Ahead of Polls

Hundreds of Turkish nationalists stormed the office of a pro-Kurdish party in western Turkey, in new violence against Kurdish politicians ahead of March 30 local elections, state-run Anatolia news agency said today.

Police armed with water cannons and tear gas were called in to disperse assailants who smashed windows of the newly opened branch of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party, or HDP, in the Aegean resort town of Fethiye yesterday, Anatolia said. Hours later, the mob smashed windows of businesses said to support the party, it added.

The party’s deputy chairman, Ertugrul Kurkcu, canceled a visit to northeastern Turkey a day earlier because of the tensions. A week ago, police and protesters clashed at the opening of a party branch in the central Anatolian city of Aksaray.

The nationalist backlash follows increased calls for autonomy by HDP and another pro-Kurdish party, Peace and Democracy Party, in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast. The party has urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to take action to end a three-decade war with militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

The group’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, urged the government to legislate a framework for negotiations after the elections, pro-Kurdish Firat news agency said today, citing Kurdish politicians who met Ocalan yesterday on a prison island near Istanbul.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands and cost the economy at least $300 billion since the early 1980s, according to government figures.

“The peace process has seriously disturbed some people,” Erdogan said in the southeastern town of Suruc yesterday. “Their irritation will be our peace.”

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