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Thousands mourn top Kurdish lawyer shot dead in Turkey

Protesters hold pictures of Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci reading "They slaughtered him!" during a demostration on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul after he was killed in Diyarbakir on November 28, 2015. (AFP Photo)

Kurdish mourners have taken part in a funeral procession held for one of the country's best-known advocates of Kurdish rights, who was shot dead in Turkey's southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

Tens of thousands of people on Sunday mourned the death of Tahir Elci who was killed on Saturday in a gun battle between police and unidentified gunmen while he was giving a press statement. Two police officers were also killed in the attack.

The death of Elci, who was the head of Diyarbakir Bar Association, triggered protests on Saturday and Sunday in both Diyarbakir and Istanbul.

On Sunday morning, thousands of people gathered at a park in Diyarbakir, chanting slogans against the government.

In Istanbul, on Saturday, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters chanting, “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism,” and, “Tahir Elci is immortal.”

The pro-Kurdish HDP Party has described the killing of Tahir Elci as a "planned assassination" and urged people to stage nationwide protest rallies.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, however, claimed it was still unclear whether Elci was caught in crossfire or assassinated.

Meanwhile, a curfew has been declared in Diyarbakir and a probe has been launched into the incident.

Elci was facing trial for saying the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organization, as the government describes it. He had, however, denounced the PKK violence.

File photo of slain Kurdish lawyer and head of the Bar Association in Diyarbakir, Tahir Elci. (AFP Photo)

Hundreds of people have been killed since a two-year ceasefire between the PKK and Turkish security forces collapsed in July, reigniting a long-time conflict in which some 40,000 people have died since the onset in 1984.

The fresh violence began in the wake of a deadly bombing in the southern Turkish town of Suruc, an ethnically Kurdish town located close to the border with Syria, on July 20, killing over 30 people.

Turkish security forces and the PKK have since been engaged in a series of tit-for-tat attacks.


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