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Militant leader killed in Istanbul siege

Turkish police killed a leader of a left-wing armed group yesterday after laying siege to the organisation's hideout in central Istanbul. One police officer and a passer-by also died in the shooting, and seven people were wounded.

Besir Atalay, the Interior Minister, said the four-hour raid on an apartment in a housing block on the Asian side of Istanbul was part of a wider operation in which 40 people were detained in Turkey's largest city. He said the dead militant, identified as Orhan Yilmazkaya, was a senior member of the Revolutionary Headquarters group, a little known organisation the minister said had links to Kurdish separatist rebels. Revolutionary Headquarters is suspected of being behind attacks on barracks and on a building housing the offices of the ruling AK Party.

Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler told broadcasters that the raid was one of more than 60 carried out in Istanbul overnight against Islamist and leftist militants suspected of planning "sensational attacks". The raids were mounted before May Day, when police are on alert for clashes with leftist militants. Heavily-armed special forces surrounded the apartment block in the district of Bostanci in the early morning.

At the height of the siege, thick smoke billowed from a window of the block where residents were trapped inside their homes as police and militants exchanged fire.

Police said the militants killed one civilian and wounded a television cameraman during the shooting. Explosives were found in the apartmen. Islamist radicals have carried out bomb attacks in predominantly Muslim Turkey, most notably in 2003 when al-Qa'ida militants killed more than 60 people in a series of bombings in Istanbul.