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Thousands mourn murdered police officers

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey -- Huge crowds of mourners have gathered for the funeral of a Turkish police chief and five officers shot dead in an ambush on their convoy.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the city of Diyarbakir, on Thursday, in an apparently spontaneous mass demonstration of support for the government in a region long torn by Kurdish separatist conflict.

Turkish Interior Minister Saadettin Tantan threw white carnations over the six coffins, draped in the red Turkish flag, as they were carried from the town square.


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The victims -- police chief Gaffar Okkan and five officers -- were killed in an overnight attack which, so far, no group has claimed responsibility for.

"Gaffar, you will never die. You live on in our hearts," read one placard held by a mourner, while others chanted slogans such as, "Martyrs never die," and, "The Motherland will not be divided."

Police have detained dozens of suspects but would not say who they believed was responsible for the attack.

The armed Islamist Hizbullah group, focus of a police crackdown over the last year, have not been ruled out.

But police say the attack on the convoy was different in style from previous Kurdish actions and came during a declared ceasefire.

Hizbullah is suspected of up to 150 killings, largely of Kurdish business leaders and sympathisers with Kurdish separatist guerrillas from the mid-1980s, such as Abdullah Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

If it transpires that Hizbullah is behind the killings, it would mark a dramatic challenge to state power.

"What you have done has only increased public hatred of you and the eagerness and power of the authorities to wage the fight against you," Emergency Rule Governor Gokhan Aydiner told a cheering the crowd.

"We...will seize these murderers and fight against any form of terrorism," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Turkish Prime Minister's Office

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