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Banned group takes prosecutor hostage in Turkey

Desmond Butler and Suzan Fraser
Associated Press

Istanbul — Members of a banned leftist group took a chief prosecutor hostage in his office Tuesday inside a court house in Istanbul, Turkish news agencies said. Police said negotiators were speaking to two militants in attempts to end the standoff.

“There is no problem concerning any of our colleagues. Our negotiators and Umit Kocasakal, the head of the Istanbul Bar Association, are talking to the militants,” Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altunok said.

“We are trying to resolve the issue without anyone being hurt,” he said.

The private Dogan news agency said some shots were fired inside earlier in the incident.

Dogan said police special forces had entered the building, which was evacuated. It was not clear how the assailants sneaked the arms in to the court house.

The state-run Anadolu Agency and state television, TRT, identified the prosecutor as Mehmet Selim Kiraz. He is the prosecutor investigating the death of a teenager who was hit by a police gas canister fired during nationwide anti-government protests in 2013.

A website close to the left-wing DHKP-C group said that militants from the banned organization had taken the prosecutor hostage at midday and had given authorities three hours to meet five demands, including forcing policemen held responsible for the teenager’s killing to confess the death.

The group also demanded that the policemen be tried by “peoples’ courts” and for court officials to drop prosecutions or investigations against people who took part in protests denouncing the boy’s death. The website showed a picture of someone holding a gun to a man’s head with posters from the group in the background.

The DHKP-C, which seeks a socialist state, is considered as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

The group has carried out sporadic attacks, including a suicide bombing on the U.S. embassy in 2013 that killed a security guard. The group was more active in the 1970s.