Muslims set fire to hotel, killing 40

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The Independent Online
ANKARA (agencies) - At least 40 people died yesterday when Muslim fundamentalists besieged and set fire to a hotel hosting a conference of intellectuals and writers, including the Turkish translator of The Satanic Verses.

Another 145 people were injured, some critically, as 600 Muslim fundamentalists rampaged through the central Anatolian town of Sivas.

The fundamentalists were protesting against the presence of Aziz Nesin, who has translated into Turkish parts of Salman Rushdie's novel. Mr Nesin, 78, was rescued down a fire ladder and was reported to have undergone surgery. The extent of his injuries was not revealed.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, called an emergency cabinet meeting last night and imposed an indefinite curfew on Sivas.

The victims mostly died of smoke inhalation, according to reports by state television and the private HBB television network.

The writers were staying at the Hotel Madimak to attend festivities in honor of a 16th century poet hanged for defying Turkey's Ottoman rulers. Fundamentalists, emerging from mosques after Friday prayers, burst through police barricades.

In London, Mr Rushdie issued a statement condemning the violence as a 'terrorist atrocity'. But he added that Mr Nesin's newspaper had 'published extracts from The Satanic Verses without my permission and against my wishes'.

Surge of violence, page 10