A May Day rally in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday (May 1) became a pitched gun battle when roof-top snipers exchanged fire with police as thousands of panic-stricken people scrambled for cover.
A May Day rally in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday (May 1) became a pitched gun battle when roof-top snipers exchanged fire with police as thousands of panic-stricken people scrambled for cover. At least 39 people died and about 200 were injured, some critically, as the peaceful rally, marking international workers day, turned into a bloodbath.
SYNOPSIS: About 150,000 people took part in the march, which was organised by the Turkish Disk trade union confederation. As the marchers converged on the sprawling Taksim square, in the heart of Istanbul, a group of about 2,000 extreme left-wingers, who had earlier tried to join in, burst into the ranks of the marchers, chanting "freedom for Kurdistan". It was then that the violence started.
The extremists were said to have opened fire and to have thrown explosives into the crowd. Armoured vehicles moved into the square as police and union officials tried in vain to stop the clashes. Thousands of workers, students and sympathizers fled in panic under a hail of gunfire. Pitched battles erupted in several areas of the city square. Bodies, broken glass and stones littered the streets. In the two hours of chaos the windows of fashionable hotels, banks and office buildings around the square were shattered by bullets as police exchanged fire with snipers on surrounding rooftops.
Among the dead was a senior police inspector. Another policeman is in hospital in a deep coma as order was gradually restored. Political violence has grown in the past year in Turkey, but this incident surpassed all figures for loss of life at a political gathering in modern Turkish history. Residents of the ancient city fear even more violence during the run-up to the general election on the 5th of June. Prime Minister Suleiman Demirel summoned his cabinet to an emergency meeting after hearing reports of the violence. Mr Demirel has promised an investigation and any security measures necessary.