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7 killed in Syria as Turkey detains nearly 450 people over anti-refugee riots

The detentions follow protests that broke out Sunday night and spread to other provinces on Monday.
A protester stands in front a burning Turkish truck during protests against Turkey in al-Bab, in the northern Syrian opposition held region of Aleppo on July 1, 2024. A man was killed after and Turkish forces clashed in Syria's Ankara-controlled northwest , a war monitor said, in demonstrations sparked by violence against Syrians in Turkey a day earlier. (Photo by Bakr ALKASEM / AFP) (Photo by BAKR ALKASEM/AFP via Getty Images)

ANKARA — Turkish authorities detained nearly 450 more people Tuesday over anti-immigrant riots that started Sunday night in central Turkey and spread to other parts of the country in the last 48 hours. 

Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said 447 people have been detained after "provocative" protests against refugees living in Turkey. Following riots that targeted Syrians in Turkey’s central Anatolian province of Kayseri on Sunday night, ultra-nationalist protests filled streets in several other provinces, including Istanbul, on Monday night.

"Following the unpleasant incident that took place in Kayseri, provocative actions were carried out against Syrians last night in some cities across our country," Yerlikaya wrote on social media platform X.

The riots in Kayseri, which broke out after a Syrian national allegedly sexually abused a minor, saw the burning of dozens of businesses and vehicles belonging to Syrians in the province. Of the more than 3.5 million Syrians who have fled to Turkey, roughly 80,000 live in Kayseri, according to official figures.

The riots in Kayseri triggered counter protests against Turkish forces in northern Syrian areas controlled by Turkish-backed rebels. Protesters there were seen burning Turkish flags. In some areas, the protests turned violent, with the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting at least seven fatalities in clashes between protesters and Turkish forces.

"Seven protesters have been killed... during exchanges of fire with people guarding Turkish positions," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Monday's protests came after videos of protests in northern Syria began to circulate on social media. In some unconfirmed videos, protesters were seen attacking Syrians in Turkey’s southeastern province of Hatay along the Syrian border. In Istanbul, a knife-wielding man who threatened Arab tourists sitting at a cafe was detained, Istanbul police said in a statement after a video of the incident went viral.

 Speaking on Tuesday, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler described the riots as "attempts to disrupt public order."

"Increasing tensions and attempts to create negative perceptions about Syrians are being closely followed," Guler told the Turkish army’s top brass in a televised speech. "Attempts to disrupt public order will be defeated thanks to the devoted efforts of all units of our government."