Masked gunmen slaughter bride, groom and 44 party guests because ‘one of them wanted to marry the bride himself’
- Thanks to Davey
Masked men armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a wedding party in a village in mainly Kurdish south-east Turkey, killing 44 people including many women and children.
The bloody raid on Monday evening was one of the worst involving civilians in Turkey’s modern history.
Citing unidentified authorities, CNN-Turk television said the attack may have occurred because one of the gunmen wanted to marry the bride himself and he opposed the marriage.
Bloody feud: A wounded man is taken to the hospital in the nearby town of Diyarbakir after the wedding attack
Initial evidence showed the attack was a result of a feud between families, according to Interior Minister Besir Atalay.Â
Eight people have been detained in connection with the mass murder, he added.
It is unclear if the celebration was actually a wedding or an engagement party.Â
Turkish media initially described the gathering as ‘dugun’, a term for a wedding celebration. However, Atalay and media outlets later used the term ‘nisan’, which refers to an engagement ceremony.
‘The state prosecutor has been working all night, listening to the accounts of eyewitnesses. Eight people have been caught and detained, and their weapons confiscated. This can be understood as a blood feud between two families,’ Atalay told a news conference.
He said 44 had been killed in the attack, including 16 women and six children. Earlier, authorities had said 45 had died.
A high-school pupil survived because the body of his slain brother fell on top of him, Haberturk TV said.
Rival groups of pro-government militia – one called Village Guard – that included families of both the bride and the groom were involved in the feud.
One of the families had opposed the marriage, a local official told Haberturk TV.
The bride and the groom were killed in the attack, which lasted 15 minutes.
Witnesses said up to six attackers stormed two houses where guests had gathered for prayers after the wedding.
The daughter of the village chief, called a Muhtar, was being married when the attack occurred, it said.
Turkey’s government could now come under renewed pressure to rein in the Village Guard, a heavily armed state-backed militia set up to combat Kurdish separatist guerrillas and provide intelligence in southeast Turkey.
Atalay said those detained and those who had been killed shared the same last name, pointing to inter-clan violence.
The deputy governor of the province of Mardin, Ahmet Ferhat Ozen, said the assailants stormed a house in Bilge village near Sultankoy, some 12 miles from Mardin, hurling grenades and opening fire on wedding guests.
‘There were a few people, they broke into the house and started spraying the place with bullets, hitting both men and women, their faces were covered with masks,’ said a 20-year-old female eyewitness, who declined to be named.
She added that there were some 200 people at the wedding party.
An ambulance pulls up outside the hospital in the town of Mardin carrying victims of the bloody assault
A family member screams in grief as the dead and wounded are carried into hospital after the attack
The village head of Bilge, Hamit Celebi, and ten family members were also among the dead. The local imam was also killed.
There are some 57,000 state-sponsored village guards throughout Turkey’s south-east. They are part of a controversial policy established in 1985 to set up a paramilitary force to protect villages against PKK attacks, patrol the rugged mountains and help fight the separatists.
But their right to carry arms, to inform on suspected separatist activities and to kill in the name of the state has made them a force within the region, while critics say they use their status to settle family scores and take land.
‘Evidence so far shows it was not the work of a terrorist group,’ Atalay said when asked it the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas were behind the attack.
The separatist PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, seeking an ethnic Kurdish homeland in the southeast. Some 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
The PKK has been significantly weakened over the past two years by a military offensive inside Turkey and across in northern Iraq.Â
But the Turkish army suffered a setback last month when the PKK attacked a military convoy, killing nine soldiers.
Security in the south-east is seen as key to improving stability in Turkey and reducing tensions with northern Iraq.