ANKARA - Turkish President Abdullah Gul has strongly condemned the pulling down of Turkish national flag at an air force command in southeastern Turkey.
"I would like to clearly stress that this and similar heinous attacks and provocations will never reach their aims," Gul said in a written statement on Monday.
A masked protester took down the Turkish flag on Sunday at an air force command in Diyarbakir province during protests following the deaths of two men in an illegal protest against the construction of a military outpost in Lice district.
"A masked person emerging from a group of protesters - mostly children and women - scaled the outer gate of the Second Air Force Command in Diyarbakir and pulled down the flag despite two warning shots," said a statement from Turkish General Staff on Monday.
President Gul stressed that the Turkish flag belongs to all in Turkey as a "common symbol and the most significant treasure."
"The flag represents our independence (...) and our joint struggle towards achieving it," he said.
Gul also called upon all to act responsibly and to avoid provocative remarks and acts that would destabilize the ongoing "solution process" to end terrorism and address the issues of minorities.
- "Provocative attempt"
The office of Turkey's military chief Necdet Ozel strongly condemned the attack, calling it a "provocative attempt to pave the way for civilian deaths and insurgency."
Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz and main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu also harshly condemned the attack.
Turkey's southeastern region has recently been tense after two protesters were killed during an illegal protest against the construction of a military outpost in the southeastern Lice district of Diyarbakir on Saturday.
The two men died after security forces intervened in the demonstration held by a pro-Kurdish group who attempted to block the road between Diyarbakir and Bingol provinces, hurling hand-made grenades and stones at security forces aiming at fuelling further protests amongst the Kurdish people.
- Protests spread in southeastern Turkey
A number of protesters set up a road block on streets and checked the identity cards of people driving through in southeastern Hakkari province on Monday.
The protesters reportedly hurled stun grenades, molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones at security forces before being dispersed by water cannon and tear gas. The clashes left two policemen injured.
Clashes were also reported from the eastern province of Erzurum where a group of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) supporters erected barricades and hurled molotov cocktails at cars.
10 more protesters were detained Monday after attacking police in the eastern province of Agri.
Diyarbakir governor’s office said in a statement last week that the terrorist organization PKK and affiliate groups since May 24 had engaged in kidnappings, roadblocks and attacked security forces with home-made explosives and firebombs.
PKK reportedly kidnapped an unknown number of children on April 23, the national day for children, with the intent to destabilize the delicate 'solution process' to end terrorism and address the issues of Kurdish people in Turkey.
Families of some of the kidnapped children staged sit-ins in Diyarbakir where they were abducted, marking the first-ever public reaction to such kidnappings in the southeastern region. The sit-ins received support from high-ranking government officials.
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