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Turkey

Turkish police clash with protesters in mining disaster town of Soma

Turkish police have used tear gas and water cannon to dispel protesters in Soma. The town was the site of the country's worst-ever mining disaster earlier this week that killed nearly 300 people.

Soma: who's at fault?

People were forced to scatter into side streets on Friday as police intervened during protests along a commercial street in Soma. The protesters shouted anti-government slogans as they marched towards a statue honoring miners in the center of the town when the route was blocked by police.

Frustration with the Turkish government has grown in the wake of the recent mining disaster. Mine owners have been accused of prioritizing profits over safety, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government is viewed as having too-friendly a relationship with mining tycoons, and failing to properly enforce regulations.

One hand-written sign in the crowd Friday read: "No coal can warm the children of the fathers who died in the mine."

Some 284 people died when a fire sent carbon monoxide through the coal mine in Soma on Tuesday. Most of the 787 workers inside had oxygen masks on, but the smoke and gas spread so quickly that many were unable to escape - 18 are believed to still be trapped.

Deflecting blame

On Friday, the mine operator said the exact cause of the disaster remains unclear but that there had been "no negligence" on the part of the company.

"There's no negligence. There's no negligence with respect to this incident. We all worked with all our heart and soul. I have not seen anything like this in 20 years," Akin Celik, the Soma mining company's operations manager, told the Associated Press news agency.

Government officials on Friday asked parliament to set up an inquiry, but likewise accepted no blame for the disaster.

"We have no inspection and supervision problem," said the deputy leader of Turkey's ruling party Huseyin Celik.

"There's no negligence with respect to this incident," he added, saying the Soma mine "was inspected vigorously 11 times since 2009."

dr/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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