Nervous Istanbul rocked by new deadly shoot-out

Dilay Gundogan
1 / 5

Turkish special forces take position on April 1, 2015 near the police headquarters in Istanbul

Turkish special forces take position on April 1, 2015 near the police headquarters in Istanbul (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkish security forces on Wednesday shot dead a female assailant after she and an accomplice sought to attack the Istanbul police headquarters, as the city reeled from its second deadly shoot-out in two days.

The woman, who was carrying bombs and a gun, was killed by the police. While her male accomplice initially escaped he was then arrested, officials said.

The clash in the Fatih district of central Istanbul came just a day after leftist militants took a top Istanbul prosecutor hostage in a standoff that ended in his death.

Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who had been investigating the politically-sensitive death of a teenage protester, was buried Wednesday after an emotional ceremony at the Eyup Sultan mosque in Istanbul.

One policeman was also lightly wounded in Wednesday's attack on the Istanbul police headquarters, Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin was quoted as saying by Turkish media.

"A female terrorist, with bombs and a gun, was killed in the clash," Sahin said.

Television images showed the body of the female attacker sprawled on the tarmac on the road outside the police station as terrified passers-by crouched behind fences to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

Turkish television said the attacker was carrying two bombs which were then made safe by disposal teams in controlled explosions.

- Over 30 radicals arrested -

Police late on Tuesday launched an operation to free Kiraz after an hours-long standoff with his captors at an Istanbul courthouse.

But the official, who had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the head and chest, died shortly after arriving at hospital.

There was no clue who had fired the fatal shots.

Both his captors, two men in their 20s affiliated to the outlawed Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C), were killed in the police operation.

There was so far no firm indication that the attack on the police headquarters was linked to the hostage-taking.

Turkish authorities had earlier Wednesday detained 22 suspected members of the DHKP-C in the southern city of Antalya after receiving a tip-off they were planning further attacks.

Police in the western city of Izmir also detained five suspected DHKP-C members, seizing documents, digital recordings, banned magazines and 30 bullets. Five more people were also detained in Eskisehir, reports said.

The DHKP-C is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States and has carried out a string of attacks in Turkey in the past.

Police also arrested an armed man who stormed an office of the ruling party in an Istanbul district but the incident was not believed to be related.

- 'Won't be tolerated' -

Hundreds of lawyers, prosecutors and staff stood in respect on every floor of the giant Istanbul Caglayan Palace of Justice where Kiraz worked and the hostage drama unfolded.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu joined the mourners at the funeral at the mosque on the banks of the Golden Horn, with police snipers posted on the balconies of minarets amid tight security.

He said the government was fighting an "evil alliance" and warned that disorder on the streets would not be tolerated.

"We won't fall into this trap, we won't sacrifice this country to them," he said.

"If one more person covers his face and resorts to Molotov cocktails: I'm warning, it won't be tolerated."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was cutting short a visit to Romania and returning home to visit Kiraz's widow, the official Anatolia news agency said.

Kiraz had been leading a hotly-politicised investigation into the killing of teenager Berkin Elvan, who died in March last year after spending 269 days in a coma from injuries inflicted by police in anti-government protests in the summer of 2013.

Elvan has since become an icon for the far-left.

In a major controversy, Davutoglu revealed he had personally denied accreditation to the funeral for media organisations who had used the image of the captive prosecutor.

"Freedom of the press is as important as mourning and respect. Freedom of the press is as important as not playing into the hands of terrorist propaganda," Davutoglu said.

The shoot-outs came at a time of intensifying political tensions in Turkey ahead of June 7 legislative elections.

Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is seeking a landslide victory, which would allow it to change the constitution to boost the powers of the presidency which he assumed in 2014 after over a decade as prime minister.