Gunman kills Turkish judge, injures 4 in court attack

Ankara, Turkey - A gunman opened fire in Turkey's top administrative court on Wednesday, killing one judge and injuring four other judges in a shooting which the country's leaders condemned as an attack on its secular establishment.

The court's deputy chairwoman Tansel Colasan said the assailant described himself as a "soldier of Allah" as he carried out the attack. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said it would go down as a "black mark in the Republic's history."

The court, the Council of State, has faced fierce criticism in Islamist circles for hardline implementation of secularist laws such as a headscarf ban in universities and state offices.

The attack is a stark reminder of the great divide between Turkey's secularists and those they perceive as Islamists bent on reviving the influence of religion in national life.

The attacker burst into the court's second chamber and started shooting with a handgun during a committee meeting at around 10 a.m. (0700 GMT).

The wounded were treated at the Hacettepe University Hospital. Hacettepe University President Tuncalp Ozgen told reporters Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin had died from his injuries. The chamber's chairman Mustafa Birden was among the injured.

Media reports identified the attacker as a lawyer registered with the Istanbul Bar Association and said he had gone to the court on Tuesday but had been prevented from entering by police.

The CNN Turk Web site reported the assailant as saying in interrogation he had targeted the judges because of a ruling in February preventing a woman from becoming a head teacher because she wore a headscarf. It did not give a source for the report.

"Pressure and threats will not intimidate the Turkish judiciary, which will continue its constitutional duties bound to the secular and democratic Republic," Sezer, a staunch secularist, said in a statement.

Colasan said Birden had requested police protection around two months ago but that this request had been rejected.


Islamic militants, Kurdish separatists and far-leftists have all carried out attacks in Turkey, which began European Union accession talks last October, in recent years.

"The target of the attack is the constitution as well as the Council of State ... Turkey is being dragged toward a very dangerous place," opposition leader Deniz Baykal told reporters.

Television pictures showed injured people being carried away to ambulances from the court in the heart of Ankara. Police imposed tight security around the building.

The gunman had shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and "may God's wrath be upon you" as he carried out the attack, private news channel NTV reported witnesses as saying.

"The attacker entered the chamber during a meeting and opened fire on each of the members, saying 'we are soldiers of Allah," Colasan told reporters.

In the wake of the attack, local media highlighted February reports in the country's Islamist media which sharply criticized a court ruling banning a head teacher from office. One newspaper published photographs of the judges behind the decision, including the killed judge and some of those wounded.

Erdogan, who was critical of the court's headscarf decision in February, was quick to condemn Wednesday's shooting.

"I curse and condemn this incident," Erdogan said.

Last week unknown assailants, shouting "God is greatest," lobbed a percussion bomb at the office of Turkey's most staunchly secularist newspaper, the third attack in a few days.

The left-leaning Cumhuriyet, the traditional mouthpiece of Turkey's secularist establishment, recently ran a media campaign warning of what it sees as rising Islamic fundamentalism.

Tensions between the secularists -- who also include the armed forces -- and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have also intensified ahead of next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.

Secularists accuse the AKP, with roots in political Islam, of having a hidden Islamist agenda. The highly popular AKP denies this.