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Turkey Journalist’s Funeral Held

October 23, 1999

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Thousands of uniformed officers filled an Ankara mosque Saturday for the funeral of a pro-secular columnist, sending a sharp warning to the radical Islamic groups suspected of planting the bomb that killed him.

The services for columnist Ahmet Taner Kislali marked the first time Turkey’s military commanders ordered officers to don uniforms to attend the funeral of a civilian _ underscoring the military’s determination to uphold its role as defender of secularism.

``Turkey is secular and will remain secular,″ chanted some of the hundreds of thousands of Turks who came from across the country for the funeral procession.

Nearly the entirety of Turkey’s civilian leadership took part in the procession, which wound through rainy streets from the Parliament building to the Kocatepe mosque.

Kislali, 60, died Thursday when a bomb placed on the windshield of his car exploded.

The Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front claimed responsibility for the attack. Authorities did not confirm the claim, but have detained scores of Islamic activists for questioning.

Kislali, a political science professor and former culture minister, was known for challenging radical Islam in Turkey through his column in the Cumhuriyet daily.

In May, a radical Islamic newspaper, Akit, printed Kislali’s picture with a black cross on it. Many saw that as denoting Kislali as a target.

``An action that will plant the seeds of a long-term tension has been carried out,″ Ercan Citlioglu, an expert on radical Islamic groups, told private NTV television.

Some mourners called on the government to resign.

President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit were booed by some demonstrators at the mosque while some applauded Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu, chief of the general staff, chanting: ``Army, nation, hand in hand in the path of Ataturk.″

Although 98 percent of its people are Muslim, Turkey is governed by strict secular rules set in place by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk when he founded the modern republic in 1923.

Separate ceremonies were held in front of the Ankara University where Kislali taught, the offices of Cumhuriyet newspaper and a theater attended by his colleagues at the Culture Ministry.

Tight security prevailed. Five thousand elite policemen, some armed with sniper rifles, watched the crowds from building tops while 3,000 soldiers stood guard around the mosque.

Attacks have killed several outspoken secularist journalists and professors in Turkey over the past two decades, including another Cumhuriyet columnist, Ugur Mumcu, who died in a car bombing in 1993. Mumcu’s killing and several others remain unsolved.

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