Turkey: Kurdish rebels attack soldiers guarding party leader


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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish rebels opened fire Thursday at security forces protecting a convoy of vehicles carrying Turkey's main opposition party leader in the northeast, killing a soldier and wounding two others, officials 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.

"No one needs to be worried about me," Kilicdaroglu was quoted as saying by the news agency. "I am in good condition."

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

Interior Minister Efkan Ala blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, for Thursday's attack. He said the assailants targeted a paramilitary police vehicle that was protecting Kilicdaroglu's motorcade. Its driver — a soldier — died of his wounds, while two other soldiers were slightly wounded.

"It is definitely the PKK and an operation has started against them," 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 condemned the attack and called Kilicdaroglu to wish him well.

Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu have had tense relations, but Turkey's political leaders have been displaying unity since the failed July 15 coup attempt. They appeared jointly at a recent pro-democracy rally and Kilicdaroglu even agreed to meet Erdogan at his controversial new palace in Ankara, breaking his previous boycott of the large complex.

"The aim of both coup plotters and terrorists that target Turkey is to damage its unity and solidarity," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Kilicdaroglu, who was traveling to the opening of a municipal building, did not cancel his plans to make a speech in the provincial capital.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Suzan Fraser

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