Leading Kurdish writer shot dead

THE grand old man of Kurdish culture in Turkey has been shot dead in the south-eastern town of Diyarbakir, the ninth and most famous journalist murdered this year.

Musa Anter's killer tempted him out on Sunday night with a plea to settle a land dispute between two other families. A caller to a Turkish newspaper later admitted the murder on behalf of a previously unknown Turkish nationalist group 'because (Anter) plotted to split the country'.

Although Mr Anter openly sympathised with Turkey's Kurdish rebels, and even their terrorist tactics, he was an outspoken advocate for Turks and Kurds to continue centuries of co-existence. 'It's like a marriage,' he once said. 'Even if we do not love each other, our interests are the same.' Few dare to argue along such themes of Turkish-Kurdish brotherhood after what has been the worst period in the eight-year-old war between the Turkish government and independence-seeking rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). More than 4,600 people have been killed so far, one-quarter of them this year.

Nearly 100 have been victims of such death-squad style 'unsolved murders', mostly Kurdish nationalists. Kurds blame Hizbollah, an Islamic fundamentalist group that Kurds say has the backing of elements in the Turkish security forces.

Kurds and Turks moved yet further apart this weekend after a controversial congress of the radical Kurdish Parliamentary Party (HEP), which has a close relationship with the PKK.

The congress elected a new leader who embodies the complexities of Turkey's 12 million ethnic Kurds. Ahmet Turk is a Kurd, a Social Democrat who heads a family of medieval feudal lords, and a member of the Turkish parliament whose party clearly sympathises with the number one enemy of the state.

'Long live the PKK,' shouted the crowd at the HEP congress, waving the red, yellow and green colours of Kurdistan. 'Apo is our leader,' they added, referring to Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK rebel leader who leads his 10,000 guerrillas from exile in Syria. Speakers at the congress demanded that the PKK and the left-wing terrorist group Dev-Sol be legalised, decreasing again the potential for compromise with Ankara or indeed otherwise sympathetic Western governments.

Few doubt that, with the reform process gridlocked and political instability in the air, the conflict will become much more violent. As if to underline this, Suleyman Demirel, the Prime Minister, said yesterday that Turkey would go into exclusive negotiations for a dollars 855m ( pounds 491m) deal for Black Hawk military helicopters with Sikorsky, the American manufacturer.

Manufacturing of 50 of the helicopters will start within 18 months in Turkey, he said, but the first 25 will be bought straight away. They have work to do.