Image: Turkish police battle with leftist militant in Istanbul
Ibrahim Usta  /  AP
Security officers take cover as a wounded man lies on the ground Monday during clashes between Turkish authorities and a leftist militant in a residential area of Istanbul.
updated 4/27/2009 10:46:40 AM ET 2009-04-27T14:46:40

A five-hour police shootout with a leftist militant in Istanbul left three people dead, including the militant described as a top member of a group tied to the Kurdish separatist PKK, authorities said.

A police officer and an onlooker also were killed, and seven police and a television cameraman were wounded, Interior Minister Besir Atalay said.

The clash began with a dawn police raid at an apartment building in Istanbul's Bostanci district. The militant responded by throwing two explosive devices that wounded several officers, Gov. Muammer Guler of Istanbul said.

Dozens rounded up
The raid was part of a crackdown on leftist, Kurdish and radical Islamic groups, Atalay said. He said police rounded up more than 40 suspects in 60 overnight raids, but there were no other clashes. Eleven of the suspects belonged to the Revolutionary Headquarters, he added.

"They were planning to stage sensational armed attacks soon," Guler said. "We have seized lots of weapons, bombs and booby traps."

The militant involved in the shootout had a police radio and identified himself as a fighter from the Revolutionary Headquarters during a radio conversation with the police, which was broadcast on HaberTurk television.

"I am a fighter and will fight until the end," the militant said. "I will probably be killed, but our struggle against fascism, terrorism will go on as it did in the past."

The gunman talked about the "brotherhood of people," a term used by leftists to describe their solidarity with Kurds.

Atalay identified the militant as Orhan Yilmazkaya, one of three top members of the Revolutionary Headquarters.

"It is a leftist group which is also linked to the separatist group," Atalay said in reference to the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which collaborated with several leftist groups in the past.

Group allegedly involved in attacks
Atalay said the group had carried out attacks on military targets and the ruling Justice and Development Party office in Istanbul in the past.

The militant had a large amount of ammunition, including booby traps, and was able to hold off hundreds of officers for more than five hours, Gov. Guler said. The gunman fired from behind a curtain of a window that was riddled with bullet holes. One shot from the safe house grazed the head of a TV cameraman and hit an onlooker, killing him.

"I was in a state of shock, I did not understand what was going on," said NTV cameraman Ilhan Kandaz, who was slightly wounded.

Intense battle
The intensity of the clash terrified residents as police brought in more reinforcements and armored vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks and helicopters.

Civilians peered from windows as anti-terrorism police ducked and sheltered behind armored vehicles. Police fired several tear gas canisters that set a fire. Smoke billowed from the building at the end of the clash.

The raids came days before May Day, when police are on alert for clashes with leftist militants. Last week, Turkey declared May Day a public holiday, bowing to pressure from labor unions. But authorities refused to grant permission for festivities to be held at Istanbul's Taksim Square. The site is symbolic because dozens of people were killed there in 1977 when gunmen opened fire, causing a stampede.

May Day had not been a public holiday in Turkey since a 1980 military coup, whose leaders regarded the festivities as a rallying point for leftist activism.

More on PKK   |  Turkey

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