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In Turkey Kurdish festival goes on despite shooting

The celebration of Newroz is an annual event in Diyarbakir and other cities in Turkey, a festival that has its roots in Persian culture.

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Turkish Kurds celebrate Newroz in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, on March 21, 2017 play

Turkish Kurds celebrate Newroz in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, on March 21, 2017

(AFP)

Tens of thousands of people celebrated the New Year festival of Newroz in Turkey's overwhelmingly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Tuesday, even as police killed a man who claimed to be carrying a bomb.

The annual event, which received official permission, took place under heavy security ahead of an April 16 referendum as the authorities pursue their fight against outlawed Kurdish militants.

In a sign of the tensions, police opened fire on a man carrying a knife and a rucksack who did not a obey a request to have his bag searched as he entered the designated area and shouted he was carrying a bomb, security sources told AFP.

The man was taken by ambulance to hospital where he died. It was not immediately clear if he posed a danger.

Many of those attending brandished flags with the word "no" in Turkish and Kurdish, urging voters to reject a plan to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans in a April 16 referendum.

The celebration of Newroz is an annual event in Diyarbakir and other cities in Turkey, a festival that has its roots in Persian culture.

The event was organised by parties including the pro-Kurd Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament.

But 13 HDP lawmakers, including its co-leaders, are in jail on charges of supporting Kurdish militants, accusations the party says were fabricated to prevent them from campaigning for a "no" vote.

"We will continue with our struggle for peace, never giving up our quest for freedom through democratic politics," the jailed co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag said in a statement issued by the HDP.

"We will not bow to or kneel before tyranny and tyrants," they added.

It was at the Diyarbakir Newroz celebrations in 2015 that the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, in a statement read by an MP, called for an end to its four-decade armed struggle against the Turkish state.

But that summer a fragile peace process collapsed as the PKK ended a ceasefire amid mutual acrimony, reviving an insurgency that has left hundreds of members of the security forces dead.

This weekend, Turkey responded with fury after tens of thousands of people attended a pro-Kurdish protest in Germany, many brandishing Ocalan flags and pro-PKK insignia.

But only a few portraits of Ocalan could be seen at the Diyarbakir rally.

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