Turkish youths hold up a Turkish flag as they march during the funeral of Vedat Kutluca, one of 12 soldiers killed by Kurdish rebels at the Turkey-Iraq border on Sunday, in Keskin, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Ankara, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007. Thousands of Turks gathered on Tuesday for the funerals of 12 soldiers slain in weekend Kurdish rebel attack, denouncing the guerrillas and calling on the government to take tough action on the group. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
ANKARA, Turkey - Masked assailants with grenades and automatic weapons attacked an engagement ceremony in southeast Turkey on Monday, killing 45 people. Two girls survived after the bodies of slain friends fell on top of them during the onslaught.
NTV television quoted Deputy Gov. Ferhat Ozen of Mardin province as saying the nighttime attack occurred in Bilge village near the city of Mardin. Some media outlets reported that a "blood feud" among families had led to the killings in a region where tribal ties and rivalries sometimes eclipse the power of the state.
Citing Ozen, NTV said the motive could be an old feud between rival groups of pro-government village guards who fight alongside Turkish troops against Kurdish rebels in the region. If that is the case, the government would come under renewed pressure to rein in the militiamen, some of whom have been linked to drug smuggling and other crimes.
Mehmet Besir Ayanoglu, the mayor of Mardin, spoke to two survivors, both girls, who said at least two masked men stormed a house where the ceremony took place. Other reports put the number of assailants at four.
"'They raided the house, we were in two rooms, they opened fire on everyone, they were wearing masks,'" Ayanoglu quoted the girls as saying. The girls said they lay underneath the bodies of friends until the attack was over.
Interior Minister Besir Atalay said 45 people were killed and six were wounded, and ruled out involvement of Kurdish rebels. He said he, along with the justice and agriculture ministers, would travel to the village early Tuesday.
Anatolia news agency said the attack lasted 15 minutes. All initial reports said the assault happened during a wedding, though CNN-Turk television later said it took place during an engagement ceremony.
One survivor, a 19-year-old woman, said the assailants ordered people to huddle in one room and opened fire, NTV reported. Another report said the attack occurred when people were praying at the house. Some guards responded to the attack but the assailants fled, NTV said.
Ahmet Can, a relative who took the body of his nephew to a hospital, said the site of the attack was horrifying.