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Turkey detains 19 in wake of deadly gunfight during MP's campaign visit

Conflicting reports of events have emerged after four killed in Kurdish-majority town ahead of tense elections
Those slain during the Suruc gunfight included the brother of AKP MP Halil Yildiz (Reuters)

Turkish police detained 19 people on Saturday after deadly clashes erupted when a lawmaker from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party campaigned in a Kurdish-majority town near the Syrian border, local media reported.

Reports said four people were killed when MP Halil Yildiz met small-business owners in Kurdish majority Suruc on Thursday.

Nineteen people, including a candidate from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), were being held, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

There were conflicting reports about the circumstances of the killings, with pro-government media saying Yildiz and his supporters came under attack from opponents armed with knives and sticks.

The lawmaker himself escaped unharmed, the reports said. The identity of the victims was not immediately clear. Anadolu had described it as an attack against Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and added that among those killed was the MP's brother.

Erdogan, who is seeking a second term as president and a thumping majority in parliament in elections to be held on 24 June, has blamed the bloodshed on the HDP and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

But unconfirmed reports on pro-Kurdish media blamed bodyguards of the MP for the attack, after he met with hostility during the visit to the shopkeepers.

Suruc, a mainly Kurdish town, was the scene of a bombing that killed 34 people and wounded about 100 on 20 July 2015 and was blamed on the Islamic State (IS) group.

The bombing sparked huge tensions in Turkey at the time, with many Kurdish activists taking to the streets and accusing the government of not doing enough in the fight against IS.

Turkey is now entering what is expected to be a tense final week of campaigning ahead of the polls. Turks have spoken to Middle East Eye about the absence of security surrounding the electoral race, leading to a number of campaign stands being attacked, while media freedoms have been drastically curtailed and even friends fear speaking about politics among themselves.

Analysts are forecasting that the parliamentary and presidential elections will be tight, with Erdogan possibly pushed into a run-off and his ruling party at risk of losing its overall majority.

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