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Aug 19, 8:27 AM EDT

Clash over Kurdish rebel statue in Turkey kills 1

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Backed by military helicopters and armored vehicles, Turkish troops clashed with Kurdish protesters trying to block the removal of a statue of a Kurdish rebel fighter on Tuesday, in violence that killed one person and injured two, officials and media reports said.

Fighting broke out at a cemetery near the southeastern town of Lice, where the statue of Mahsum Korkmaz, a Kurdistan Workers' Party fighter, was raised on Aug. 15 - the 30th anniversary of the start of the group's fight for Kurdish autonomy. The group, known by its acronym PKK, is considered a terrorist organization.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said on Turkish NTV television that Tuesday's violence was an "act of provocation" to undermine peace talks with the PKK's jailed leader.

Turkey's military said a group of up to 250 people - which it said included PKK rebels - attacked soldiers trying to remove the statue with rocket-propelled grenades, riffles and improvised explosives, forcing troops to "immediately respond." It said the group shot at military helicopters flying overhead, hitting two. The firefight ended when the helicopters returned fire, the military said.

It said troops returned to base safely. The Interior Ministry said the statue was removed.

Earlier, the state-run Anadolu Agency said Kurdish protesters threw rocks and fireworks at the troops, who were acting on court orders to remove the statue. It said some protesters opened fire at the troops and that a 24-year-old man, injured by gunfire, later died in the hospital.

The pro-Kurdish Firat News said the man died after security forces attacked with helicopters, armored vehicles and gunfire.

Korkmaz, who died in 1986, was a rebel commander who took part in the PKK's first armed attack in 1984. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since then.

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