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Turkish PM Blames Protests on Extremists

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused anti-government protesters of walking "arm-in-arm with terrorism," as he blamed "extremist elements" for three days of some of the most violent riots in years.

His comments Monday came as the Turkish Doctors' Association said a 20-year-old Turkish man died when a vehicle slammed into a crowd of protesters who were marching late Sunday. It was the first known death related to the demonstrations.

Speaking to reporters before departing on a planned four-day trip to North Africa, Mr. Erdogan dismissed the protests as the work of secularist enemies who never accepted the mandate of his Islamist AKP party, which has won three straight elections.

He rejected comparisons with the Arab Spring uprising, saying in televised comments that the protesters had no support in the general population and giving no indication he was prepared to compromise.

Rights groups said hundreds of security personnel and protesters have been injured since Friday in the violence, pitting stone-throwing protesters against riot police firing tear gas and water cannons.

Police in Istanbul and Ankara used tear gas again early Monday to disperse protesters, some of whom had marched on Mr. Erdogan's offices.

In contrast to Mr. Erdogan's comments, President Abdullah Gul urged calm Monday and defended the right of citizens to protest.



The demonstrations began as a demand to stop an urban redevelopment plan on park land, but have more broadly included criticism of Mr. Erdogan's government.

Turkey's Interior Ministry said Sunday more than 1,700 people had been detained since last week, but that most have since been released.

The police crackdown on protesters in Istanbul appeared to anger many secular Turks, who accuse Mr. Erdogan's decade-old, Islamist-rooted government of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

International rights groups have strongly criticized the crackdown as excessive, while Turkey's Western allies, including the United States, have urged the government to uphold freedom of expression and exercise restraint.

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