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Europe

Turkish government rejects claim not fighting IS after Diyarbakir shootout

media Bullet holes and a huge gap in the wall where a booby trap went off, killing two police, in one of the houses where IS members were staying. Tony Cross/RFI

Turkey has experienced a wave of violence ahead of its second election this year on Sunday. There has been a flare-up in the conflict with Kurdish guerrillas since the government scrapped peace talks with them. And this week there was a bloody shootout between police and the Islamic State armed group (IS) in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir.

The walls of one of the two houses where IS members were living are riddled with bullets, all the windows have been blown out and there is a gaping hole in the front where a booby trap went off, killing the two police officers.

Seven IS members were also killed and cache of guns and explosives captured.

"When they started fighting about 4.00am I didn’t know what was going on," says Fatma, who lives next door. "The police told us they would bomb our houses if we didn’t keep the lights on. We saw one of the people outside putting on a big suicide belt. The police took our family out of the house and placed a big gun behind the house and started firing."

The occupants were young people, who kept themselves to themselves, she says.

Click here for our coverage of Turkey election 2015

The only contact she had with them was when they put up a tarpaulin over their garden and she asked them to take it down because it was interfering with reception on her satellite TV, which they agreed to do.

"We didn’t know them. We thought they were students. They were very young. We didn’t expect Islamic State to be our neighbours!"

Around the corner at the other house Sina, who lives in a block of flats over the road, was woken about midnight by gunfire.

"Of course I was frightened!" he says. "We thought war had broken out. My children woke up at midnight and they were frightened. It was very intense fighting."

Unlike the occupants of the other house, this one's inhabitants were all men.

They were Kurds and very young, Sina says.

"They were giving lessons about religion and the Koran to people from this area. I didn’t go and I didn’t send my children."

Police said on Thursday that a group of 10 female IS members was at large and planning suicide attacks.

And the government, which insists that it has clamped down on the group, which has brought the conflict in Syria and Iraq across the border, announced that 285 IS suspects have been arrested in the first nine months of this year.

Its critics, expecially the pro-Kurd People’s Democratic Party (HDP), accuse the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of secretly supporting IS as a counter against Kurdish rebels in Syria and Turkey and enabling it to bomb two peace rallies at the cost of over 150 lives.

"There are documents showing that the Daesh terror organisation is being supported by the Turkish government, that weapons are being sent to this organisation by the government," HDP youth leader Cüynet Aslan explains, referring to IS by the Arab acronym Daesh. "The government is making an environment for this group to expand and kill us."

When Turkey agreed to join the Western powers in air strikes on IS, it also bombed PKK positions. Since the it has also attacked Syrian Kurdish rebels, accusing them of entering its territory.

On Thursday Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu slammed HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas for accusing him of legitimising IS.

He also defended strikes on the Syrian Kurd YPG, declaring that anyone who is a threat to Turkish territory should be taken on.

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