Authorities announced on Wednesday that a police officer was arrested in connection with the killing of a 12-year-old boy in the restive southeastern town of Cizre on Jan. 14.
The police officer's possible role in the death of Nihat Kazanhan, following a head injury from an unidentified projectile was denied earlier by the Interior Ministry, which said there was no police presence in the area at the time of his death. Interior Minister Efkan Ala pledged a thorough investigation into the killing. A further inquiry revealed an officer was indeed involved in the murder. Anadolu Agency reported that the unidentified officer was from the special operations unit of the Turkish National Police in the southeastern province of Mardin and was temporarily deployed in Cizre in Şırnak province on the day of the incident. Cizre has been the scene of violent clashes between groups supporting the PKK and security forces prior to Kazanhan's death, which saw five people killed in December.
Şırnak Governor Hasan İpek said the police officer was arrested as part of an investigation by the Interior Ministry's internal affairs department and the Cizre Chief Prosecutor's Office.
As the arrest was announced, footage showing the moment of Kazanhan's death surfaced on several Turkish media outlets. The footage shows a group of children and teenagers apparently throwing stones at police officers attempting to disperse them with tear gas. Kazanhan is seen standing on the roadside while others start running. Suddenly, he falls to the ground. Upon seeing his fall, a man rushes and grabs the unconscious boy. He is next seen carrying the boy to the back of a nearby truck and speeding away.
News outlets affiliated with the PKK had claimed that the boy was killed by police fire. Footage does not show who fired the projectile, which police failed to identify. The initial investigation concluded that Kazanhan was hit in the back of the head with a hard plastic object, but could not find the record of its use by police in the area.
Cizre, a small town of 129,000 people, is known as a stronghold of PKK supporters. Along with clashes with security forces, PKK supporters have also clashed with members of a conservative pro-Kurdish party.
The government calls the violence in the town a "provocation to undermine the reconciliation process," a state-sponsored initiative to end PKK terrorism and restore the rights of the Kurdish community.
Cizre was also rocked with the emergence of a notorious video showing police officers in an armored vehicle placing bombs on a sidewalk. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denounced the incident and said there was "a plot" to stir tensions in the town.