Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 15:44 UK

Turkish massacre villagers flee

Villagers flee Bilge Koyu  (6 May 2009)
Twelve families, believed to total more than 100 people, are said to have fled

Relatives of the 10 men charged with involvement in the killing of 44 people at a wedding in south-east Turkey have fled their homes in fear of reprisals.

Dozens were seen loading their belongings onto lorries parked in Bilge Koyu, in Mardin province, under the supervision of the security forces.

The Turkish government has said the attack on Monday was the result of a long-running feud between two families.

Among those killed were the bride and groom, six children and 16 women.

Some 70 children in the village lost one or both parents in the massacre. Many are receiving psychological treatment for trauma.

'Succession of events'

Twelve families, believed to total more than 100 people, loaded their furniture, appliances and clothing onto lorries under guard on Wednesday evening as they left Bilge Koyu out of fear of revenge attacks, reports said.

There was a succession of events over the years leading to the attack. There was one important reason that accelerated the whole process
Besir Atalay
Turkish Interior Minister

Security sources told the Reuters news agency that 27 weapons, two of them unlicensed, had been seized from other villagers in an effort to prevent reprisals.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Besir Atalay said the weapons used in Monday's attack had been issued by the state, and that several of the suspects were members of an officially-sanctioned militia, the Village Guards, which has helped government forces fight the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"There are Village Guards both among the victims and the attackers," Mr Atalay told reporters in Ankara.

"The weapons used were those given to Village Guards. This is important. We are evaluating the issue," he added.

A woman mourns for the victims of the attack (6 May 2009)
Locals say there has been a feud between two families in the village

The Village Guards have long been accused of illegal activities and correspondents say that if the group's complicity in these killings is proved, it is likely to reinforce calls for it to be disbanded.

"If there are problems, they can be reviewed," President Abdullah Gul said on Thursday. "In the end, this is an issue related to security. Whatever should be done has to be done carefully."

Mr Atalay said "a succession of events over the years" had led to the massacre, with "one important reason that accelerated the whole process" - though he did not specify what that was.

On Tuesday, villagers said that the assailants had been members of the Celebi family who wanted the bride, Sevgi Celebi, to marry one of her relatives.

They said there was a feud going back about 20 years between the Celebis and the family of the groom, Habip Ari, and that the bride's father and mother had resisted pressure to cancel the marriage.

Some said there had also been a dispute over land and unpaid debts.

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