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AROUND 100 villagers have fled their homes in southeast Turkey in fear of revenge attacks for the massacre of 44 people at a wedding in a feud between families.

Locals loaded furniture, appliances and clothing onto trucks parked outside their houses and left under the supervision of paramilitary police on Wednesday evening after what was the worst mass killing of civilians in modern Turkish history.

The attack, blamed on a feud between families over property and who should marry the bride, has ravaged Bilge village which had a population of around 350 before Monday night's attack in the mainly Kurdish region.

Security sources said two more people have been arrested over the killings, raising the number of those in custody to 10. Those detained were members of a state-backed rural militia and used state-issued weapons in the attack, officials have said.

The involvement of "village guards" in the attack has revived pressure on the European Union-candidate country to rein in the heavily armed force. Such a move is unlikely given their importance as a source of income in the impoverished region.

There are about 57,000 village guards in Turkey's southeast, part of a policy established in 1985 to protect villages against attacks from Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas seeking an independent Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey.

The 12 families, or around 100-120 people, who left Bilge were believed to be related to those suspected of having carried out the Monday evening attack. The sources declined to say where the villagers were heading for security reasons.

Security sources said 27 weapons, two of them unlicensed, had been seized from villagers to prevent revenge attacks. Interior Ministry Besir Atalay has said assault rifles and grenades used by the masked assailants were issued by the state.

Children in the village were receiving psychological support to cope with the trauma of the attack, which left 70 children without one or both parents.

Local authorities have erected tents where visitors can meet and offer their condolences to the villagers, who were being provided food by the Red Crescent humanitarian organisation.

The killings, which put pressure on Ankara to address the root causes of instability in the underdeveloped east compared with the industrialised and wealthy West, has embarrassed many in Turkey as it pursues efforts to join the European Union.


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