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44 killed as wedding party attacked in Turkey

Masked men armed with assault rifles and grenades killed 44 people at a wedding party in southeast Turkey in a blood feud between families, authorities and residents said.

world Updated: May 05, 2009 23:46 IST
Daren Butler

Masked men armed with assault rifles and grenades killed 44 people at a wedding party in southeast Turkey in a blood feud between families, authorities and residents said.

The bride and her groom were killed in Monday evening's attack in Bilge, a village of around 250 people in the conservative heartland of mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey.

The suspected gunmen and many of the victims bore the same family name, Interior Minister Besir Atalay said.

The Celebi family had been at odds over land, membership of state-sponsored village guards, and more recently over the bride, local residents said.

The attack was sparked by revenge from one part of the Celebi family unhappy a relative had been passed over for a groom from another family in Diyarbakir.

Bodies started arriving late on Tuesday for burial in mass graves dug by machine diggers. They had been taken temporarily to nearby morgues as the local one did not have enough space.

A imam, or a Muslim cleric, was among the dead. “I am ashamed to be from here, this is brutality, it is like a natural disaster, an earthquake," said Mahmut Yildiz, 43. Pointing to the freshly dug graves, he said: “I don't know how we will be able to live in peace.”

The attack was one of the worst involving civilians in the modern history of European Union candidate Turkey and highlighted the power tribes still wield in the region, increasing instability. “Eight people have been caught and detained, and their weapons confiscated. This can be understood as a blood feud between two families,” Atalay told a news conference.