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3 Slain at Bible Distributor in Turkey

Assailants tied up three people at a publishing house that distributes Bibles in Turkey and then slit their throats Wednesday, adding to a string of attacks apparently targeting Christian minority.
( [email protected] ) Apr 18, 2007 04:30 PM EDT

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Assailants tied up three people at a publishing house that distributes Bibles in Turkey and then slit their throats Wednesday, adding to a string of attacks apparently targeting the country's tiny Christian minority.

The killings occurred in Malatya, a city in central Turkey known as a hotbed of Turkish nationalism and is the hometown of Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Malatya Gov. Ibrahim Dasoz said two of the victims at the Zirve publishing house were found already dead and the third died after being taken to the hospital. All had their throats cut and their hands and legs were bound, he said.

Dasoz said police detained four suspects and were investigating whether another man who suffered head injuries when he jumped from the window of the publisher's office may have been involved in the attack. He was reported undergoing surgery for his injury.

The German Embassy said one victim was German. "I am shocked that a German citizen is among the victims. Even if the exact circumstances of the crime are not yet known, I most strongly condemn this brutal crime," German Ambassador Eckart Cuntz said in a statement.

Another victim was Turkish, Dasoz said, but he could not confirm the nationality of the third person killed.

Zirve's general manager told CNN-Turk television that his employees had recently been threatened. "We know that they have been receiving some threats," Hamza Ozant said, but could not say who made the threats.

The publishing house had been targeted previously in protests by nationalists who accused it of proselytizing in this overwhelmingly Muslim but officially secular country, Dogan news agency reported.

Making up less than 1 percent of Turkey's 70 million people, Christians have increasingly become targets amid what some fear is a rising tide of hostility toward non-Muslims.

In February 2006, a teenager fatally shot a Catholic priest as he prayed in his church, and two more Catholic priests were attacked later in the year. A November visit by Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by nonviolent protests, and early this year a gunman killed Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink.

Associated Press writer Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara contributed to this report.

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