* Militants also kidnap Islamist politician
* Unrest jeopardising peace process with militants
* Success key to Erdogan ahead of presidential election
By Seyhmus Cakan
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, May 29 Kurdish guerrillas
shot dead a state-sponsored militia member in southeast Turkey,
the armed forces said on Thursday, escalating tensions in the
region after days of protests at the building of new military
Two fighters from the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)
killed "village guard" Mehmet Ugurtay in his van on Wednesday in
a primary school courtyard in the southeastern province of
Mardin, where he was due to pick up pupils, the army's general
Village guards are armed and paid by the state, often acting
in collaboration with the military, to help protect rural
communities against PKK attacks.
"He was killed with one shot from a pistol. The separatist
terrorist group members then fled the scene of the incident on
motorbike," the general staff said in a statement.
Turkey launched peace talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah
Ocalan in 2012 to try to end a 30-year conflict that has killed
40,000 people and hampered the development of the mostly Kurdish
The success of the peace process and support from Turkey's
Kurds, who account for around a fifth of the population, is key
to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan ahead of his expected bid for
the presidency in an August election.
Some Turkish media said the village guard was a member of
the Islamist Huda-Par political party, fierce rivals of the PKK.
Security sources said armed PKK militants have also abducted
Huda-Par's local representative in the Dicle district of
neighbouring Diyarbakir province, Ercan Alpaslan, after setting
up a roadblock and pulling him from his minibus on Wednesday
A day earlier, rebels abducted a soldier during a protest
that has forced the closure of highways across Diyarbakir.
Security forces are continuing operations to find both men.
The PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984 with the aim of
carving out a separate state in the southeast for the country's
Kurds. They have since moderated their demands, seeking
increased political and cultural rights which were long denied.
The militants have blocked various points along country
roads with trucks and cars seized over the past five days in
protest at the construction of several new military outposts,
used by the armed forces to maintain regional security.
In Diyarbakir, an 11-day-old sit-down protest outside the
city council by families angry at the PKK's recruitment of their
children doubled in size on Thursday to 45 families.
Erdogan has staked considerable political capital in peace
efforts, widening cultural and language rights at the risk of
alienating parts of his grassroots support base. The PKK is
designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and
the European Union, and Ocalan remains widely reviled among
A ceasefire called by Ocalan in March 2013 has largely held,
but the PKK halted a rebel withdrawal to bases in northern Iraq
last summer, complaining at a lack of progress in the process.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Hugh