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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kurd Rebels Kill 5 as Violence Rises

ANKARA, Turkey -- Suspected Kurdish rebels intensified attacks in the wake of a death sentence against rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, killing five people and injuring eight others in the southeast and in the main city of Istanbul, reports said Friday.

Two armed rebels stormed a coffee house in the eastern city of Elazig late Thursday, killing four civilians and wounding four others.

Governor Lutfullah Bilgin of Elazig city said the assailants posed as a family to attack the coffee house with automatic rifles, which they had hidden in a baby carrier. Both of the attackers were shot dead by police, and an officer was wounded, private NTV television said Friday. Simultaneously, a time bomb went off at an Istanbul coffee house, injuring three civilians, NTV said.

In another attack, a policeman was killed late Thursday when suspected Kurdish rebels sprayed a police guard post with automatic weapons in the southeastern city of Van, the Anatolia news agency reported. A second police officer was injured in the shooting.

On Tuesday, Ocalan was condemned to death for treason and separatism. Suspicion fell on Kurdish rebels who have vowed to step up fighting as revenge for the verdict against their leader, who remains locked up on a prison island.

The rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, said it would not remain silent to the verdict, the Kurdish daily Bakis reported Friday.

The attacks coincided with a military crackdown in the southeast, where troops killed 22 Kurdish rebels in clashes in the provinces of Hakkari, Batman, Bingol and Sirnak, Anatolia said. Four soldiers were also killed.

Many Turks f especially those whose friends and family were among 37,000 killed in warfare f reveled in Ocalan's conviction.

A public debate over whether to hang Ocalan intensified as many analysts argued the execution would harm Turkey. "If hanging him would not bring any good to Turkey ? why should we hang him?," asked Oktay Eksi, chief columnist of daily Hurriyet, on Friday.

European Union members, which all have abolished the death penalty, warned that hanging Ocalan would hurt Turkey's bid to become a member.

Relations were already strained after the EU told the Turkish government in 1997 that it must improve its human rights record and resolve disputes with EU-member Greece before joining.

Prime Minster Bulent Ecevit brushed aside criticism, saying: "We are not in the position to take any political decision to please the European Union."

Turkey was reportedly pressuring Iran to crack down on Kurdish rebels on its territory, the daily Radikal and NTV said Friday. The rebels stage hit and run attacks in Turkey from their bases in northern Iraq and Iran.