Christian evangelists have their throats cut in horror attack
ATTACKERS slit the throats of three people, including a German, at a Turkish Bible publishing house yesterday, in the latest attack on minorities in mainly Muslim Turkey.
The victims were found with their hands and feet bound, said Halil Ibrahim Dasoz, the governor of the south-eastern province of Malatya, where the attack occurred.
Four people were held in connection with the attack and one, who fell from the building, was taken to hospital with head injuries, he said.
The killings come as political tensions rose between the powerful secular elite, including army generals and judges, and the religious-minded AK Party government over next month's presidential elections.
TV pictures showed police wrestling one man to the ground and leading several - apparently teenagers - out of the building.
A wave of nationalism has swept the secular but predominantly Sunni Muslim country over the past year. Hrant Dink, an Armenian-Turkish editor, was shot dead by an ultra-nationalist youth. Mr Dink was also from Malatya, which is known as a hotbed of nationalists and is also the home town of Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981.
A visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict XVI last year was prefaced by protests in Istanbul and followed a rise in violence against Christian clergy.
For many Turkish nationalists, Christian missionaries are seen as enemies of Turkey working to undermine its political and religious institutions.
The government and other officials have criticised Christian missionary work, while the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, has called for more freedom for the tiny Christian minority.
"We would like a government campaign to get rid of the myths, such as that missionaries are trying to divide the country. These are the things which feed such acts," said Carlos Madrigal, an evangelical pastor who knew the victims and said they were also evangelical Protestants.
"In some ways the situation has improved because we have got legal rights ... but there are parts of society which have become radicalised," said Mr Madrigal, whose church in Istanbul has had police protection since Mr Dink's murder.
An official from the publishing house told television that they had received threats over its publications.
"It's too early to say, but the attack appears to be the work of Islamists," said Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based expert on Turkish security. "There are generally a lot of threats against Christians in Turkey, primarily against Turkish converts."
Early last year, an Italian priest was shot dead - also by a youth - in the Black Sea port of Trabzon, which coincided with worldwide protests over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
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