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Video Shows Turkish Nationalists Attacking Pro-Kurdish Party Offices in Capital

Tensions are running high ahead of snap November elections following the collapse of a ceasefire between the Turkish government and Kurdish insurgents.

by Reuters and VICE News
Sep 9 2015, 5:20pm

Photo by Emrah Gurel/AP

A crowd of ultranationalist protesters attacked offices belonging to Turkey's left-wing and pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) late Tuesday, after anti-terrorist demonstrations in multiple cities turned violent.

Video of the attack in Ankara shows a large crowd of mostly young men throwing rocks at and then entering HDP's headquarters. Photos online that appear to be have been taken after the attack shows the interior gutted by fire. 

Supporters of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also attacked another HDP office in the neighboring province of Kirsehir on Tuesday, ripping down party posters and replacing HDP's flag with a Turkish flag.

In the central city of K?r?ehir, Nationalists set fire to more than 20 Kurdish-owned businesses on Tuesday, Socialist daily Evrensel reported. Pictures from the scene of one burnt out restaurant showed a blackened and badly damaged facade with charred and overturned furniture inside.

Attacks on HDP buildings continued Wednesday night, including in Istanbul's Atasehir neighborhood. Party spokesman Cem Bico told VICE News that the full extent of the damage was not yet clear but said the assailants had taken documents and other materials from the office then set fire to them in the street.

Meanwhile, at least 93 people were detained in Istanbul for damaging property during protests. The offices of the mass-circulation Hurriyet newspaper also came under attack.

Dogan news agency said protesters attacked several businesses with sticks and stones for not displaying Turkish flags in southern Turkey's Manavgat district, located within the Mediterranean tourism hub of Antalya. 

The attacks come amid rising violence in southeast Turkey following the collapse of a ceasefire between the government and Kurdish insurgents.

Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast has seen almost daily clashes between militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and security forces since July.

The conflict has shattered a peace process started by President Tayyip Erdogan in 2012 to end an insurgency that has killed more than 40,000 people over three decades.

Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said political instability posed the biggest risk to the economy, a rare admission by the ruling AK Party that politics could further hamper Turkey's once-stunning growth.

Fighting has intensified in the run-up to the November 1 parliamentary election that the AK Party hopes will restore its single-party majority and furnish a mandate for stronger presidential powers for Erdogan. Opinion polls suggest, however, that an overall AK majority is unlikely to emerge.

"It is becoming impossible to hold an election given the security situation in the region," Selahattin Demirtas, the head of the HDP, told a news conference in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

"We want an election to be held and we are not saying an election can't be held, but we want the conditions in the region to be improved for an election."

More than 40 Turkish warplanes have hit PKK targets this week in northern Iraq, where the group has bases, in response to Sunday's killing of 16 soldiers near the Iraqi border, the deadliest PKK attack since the ceasefire collapsed.

The latest of these airstrikes was carried out late on Tuesday on PKK targets in Daglica, a southeastern province close to the Iraq and Iran borders, a security source told Reuters.

More than 100 members of Turkish security forces have been killed since the conflict resumed in July, based on information from government officials and security sources. Some 2,000 PKK militants have been killed, according to Erdogan.

The PKK, designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union, launched its separatist insurgency in 1984.

Related: Erdogan Hopes to Further Consolidate Powers in Turkish Election

Erdogan has been accused of stoking anti-Kurdish sentiment while encouraging attacks on HDP offices after his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority in elections this past June. In the same ballot, voters came out in droves to support HDP, which entered parliament for the first time. But instead of merging with HDP to form a ruling coalition, Erdogan instead called for a snap legislative re-election in November.

HDP lawmaker Pervin Buldan warned that Erdogan's tactics could prove disastrous.

"These are all decisions aimed at taking the country to elections in a ring of fire," she told Reuters Tuesday.

Turkish society has become sharply polarized, and with Erdogan fanning nationalist sentiment to bolster support for upcoming elections, the risk of the current insecurity stirring ethnic tensions is high.

"The government must reduce tensions," Suleyman Ozeren, a security analyst Ankara-based think-tank Global Policy and Strategy, told Reuters. "The PKK has never managed to stir up a climate of ethnic violence before, but if they continue to carry out big attacks, who knows?"

Watch VICE News' documentary Istanbul's Kurdish Riots

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