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Soldier killed on Turkish-Syrian border as tensions escalate

Kurdish-Turkish tensions continue to escalate as HDP leader warns of civil war
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (2nd R) and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) offer prayers during the funeral of a killed soldier, at Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara, on 10 September 2015 (AFP)

A Turkish soldier deployed on the border with Syria was killed early on Thursday by fire from Syrian territory, the Dogan news agency reported.

The soldier, 21, was standing guard in the Reyhanli district of the Hatay region of southern Turkey when he was hit by fire from the Syrian side of the border.

Despite efforts to save him, the soldier died in hospital, Dogan said, quoting a statement from the regional governor.

Two Turkish soldiers have been killed since late July in fire from Syria in incidents blamed on militants from the Islamic State (IS).

Another soldier was abducted on 1 September and has not been heard of since.

It was not immediately clear which of the many groups fighting in northern Syria was behind in the current incident.

After months of hesitation, Turkey has fully joined the US-led coalition against IS, carrying out airstrikes against its targets for the first time. IS has released a video threatening to kill Erdogan for "treachery" and "“selling the country to the US and Western powers”.

Kurdish-Turkish tensions

Meanwhile, Turkish prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), as tensions continue to escalate amid a bloody conflict with outlawed Kurdish militants.

The state prosecutor in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir opened an investigation into Demirtas on charges ranging from humiliating the Turkish people to insulting the president and producing propaganda for a terrorist organisation, DHA, Turkey’s main secular news agency, reported late on Wednesday.

Tensions have risen sharply in Turkey in the past few days, as the government presses a major military operation against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters, and the armed group strikes out with daily attacks against the army and police.

On Tuesday night, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Ankara and other cities to condemn the increasingly bloody PKK assaults in the east, where two attacks killed 29 soldiers and police between Sunday and Tuesday.

Some demonstrators took aim at the HDP, whom they accuse of collaborating with the PKK, setting fire to a room in the party's headquarters in Ankara and also setting an office in the southern city of Alanya alight. Turkish media said 93 people were detained in Istanbul alone over the attacks.

HDP leader Demirtas denounced what he described as two nights of government-backed "lynching" of the party and warned of a civil war.

"We are facing a campaign of lynching," he said, laying the blame at the feet of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"They want to create a civil war and the last two days have been rehearsals for this," he said.

Addressing a press conference in Ankara, Erdogan hit back, saying Demirtas was "mad" to talk of civil war. "If you side with terrorism you will have to suffer the consequences," said Erdogan