2 dead after violent Istanbul protest

May 23, 2014 - 9:34 AM
Turkey Mine Disaster

A police officer fires as riot police use water cannons and teargas to disperse people who were protesting the Soma mine disaster that killed 301 miners, in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, March 22, 2014. A protester was seriously injured during clashes.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reacting to two deaths this week in clashes between police and protesters, said Friday that he was "amazed" by the patience of the police.

Police fought with more than a dozen youths who hurled stones and firebombs on Thursday. One man — described as a bystander and not a demonstrator — was shot and died. A second man died on Friday.

The protests focused on the 301 deaths in the coal mine disaster last week, and the death of a 15-year-old boy, Berkin Elvan, who was hit in the head by a police tear-gas canister in disturbances last year and died in March without regaining consciousness. Tens of thousands of people came to his funeral.

"We won't remain silent against the blood mongers who use (the mine disaster) as an excuse to break, ravage, attack police and commit murder," Erdogan said in a speech to members of his ruling party. "Do you expect police to stand idly by and watch? I am amazed at their patience."

As for Elvan, Erdogan said: "Are we to hold a ceremony every time there's a death? He died and it's over."

News of the death on Thursday triggered more clashes in the same neighborhood, injuring at least nine people including a man who died in a hospital of a severe injury on Friday, Istanbul Gov. Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters.

Mutlu earlier identified the dead bystander as 30-year-old Ugur Kurt. Police investigators are trying to identify the person who fired the bullet. The second man who died was not identified.