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    Three, including suspected militant, killed in Turkish anti-terror operation

    Hurriyet Daily News with wires
    27.04.2009 - 09:43 | Son Güncelleme: 27.04.2009 - 17:08

    ISTANBUL - Turkish police launched a wide-range operation in Istanbul against a far-left organization, and three people, including a suspect, were killed after a clash erupted when security forces raided a house, Turkey's interior minister said Monday. (UPDATED)

    Raids were conducted in 60 areas overnight against militants from a far-left organization called "Revolutionary Headquarters," suspected of planning to carry out "sensational attacks," Besir Atalay told reporters at a news conference at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, where he arrived at noon Monday.

     

    In the southeastern district of Bostanci, police engaged in a shootout with suspected militants when they raided a safe house. One police officer, one civilian and the suspected militant were killed, while seven police officers slightly injured, Atalay added. Police discovered explosives, ammunitions and arms during the raids.

     

    "The operation (in Bostanci) has been completed. Both the apartment and the house have been searched carefully. There are many materials inside, including possible traps," he said.

     

    Thirty-eight people were detained in the raids overnight with suspected links with an illegal far-left organization as well as the separatist terror organization, he added.

     

    The raids were operated by the head of Istanbul police, Celalettin Cerrah, the news reports said. The militant, Orhan Yilmazkaya, opened fire and threw bombs targeting the police officers, Atalay said.

     

    "This terrorist had been under scrutiny for a while. He is one of the leaders of this far-left Revolutionary Headquarters and has links with the separatist terror organization," he said, adding there are two more people involved in the leadership of the far-left organization.

     

    Police chief Semih Balaban and a 16-year-old onlooker, Mazlum Seker, were also killed by the militant, Atalay added. Two other civillians, including a cameraman from NTV, Ilhan Kandaz, were also injured during the shootout.

     

    According to Atalay, the organization carried out a mortar shell attack on the military’s headquarters in Istanbul and a bomb attack on the ruling Justice and Development Party's bureau in Istanbul.

     

    POLICE CRITICIZED; ATALAY REJECTS CLAIMS

    Eyewitnesses and locals living in the area criticized police for not taking the necessary precautions during the shootout.

     

    "The police widened the area it cordoned off after an onlooker was shot and banned all entrances as well as exits to the street," said Efan Koseoglu, a 37-year-old pharmacist. He said that before Seker was shot, journalists and civilians were able to get closer to the clash.

     

    Hasan Koca, 24, who works at a nearby patisserie, said there were security measures in place but that they “were intensified after the news spread of the injured person."

     

    Atalay, however, rejected the criticism that the necessary precautions were not taken, saying both Seker and the cameraman were outside the security area. "They were hit when the militant started shooting randomly.”

     

    He also criticized the media for not taking the police's warnings into consideration, adding that journalists risk their lives to rush to the stories.

     

    "But we will check to see whether the necessary precautions were taken or not," he added.

     

    INCREASED POLICE PRESENCE

    Those who live in the area have noticed a recent rise in the number of police officers on the streets.

     

    "The existence of police in the neighborhood has substantially increased within the recent one-month period,” said Koseoglu. “The amount of identity-card checking by police during this period has increased."

     

    S.E., 47, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the suspected terrorists had rented and resided in the flat for nearly 15 days.

     

    Koseoglu said he saw police near the back of the building the night before the raid. “The back area of the building was cordoned off with fence,” he said. “The clash started at 5 in the morning and intensified between 8 and 9 a.m.”

     

    Speaking about the shootout that followed the raid, Koca said, "I haven't heard the sounds of bullets continuing for such a long time before.”

     

    * Fulya Cimen from Istanbul also contributed this story.

     

     

     

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