Cyprus service issue turns violent

NICOSIA (AP) – A bomb exploded before dawn yesterday at a Greek Orthodox church in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, causing damage but no injuries. Officials said anti-Greek slogans were scribbled on the church. The attack followed reports in the Turkish-Cypriot press that local extremist groups had vowed to try to prevent services planned next week at the Aghios Mamas Church to celebrate its namesake’s saint’s day. Mehmet Ali Talat, the head of the Turkish-Cypriot administration, said authorities would press forward with the first service at the church in decades, planned as a gesture of reconciliation between ethnic Turks and Greeks. Hundreds of Greek Cypriots who fled Morphou, known as Guzelyurt in Turkish, in the wake of the 1974 Turkish invasion had planned to attend the service. «No greater evil or treachery than this can be done to Turkish Cypriots,» Talat said of the attack. «If they hope to bring fear to our country, they are mistaken. They won’t accomplish anything.» But while calling the bombing «regrettable,» veteran Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said plans for Greeks to attend services at the church were «simply, purposely provocative. Our people were provoked.» Aristos Katsis, a Greek Cypriot originally from Morphou who had worked with Turkish-Cypriot authorities on the service, urged fellow Greek Cypriots «not to be cowed by the bomb attack and to attend the service on Wednesday in their thousands.» The church, which has been used as a museum for Orthodox icons since 1974, was empty at the time of the blast. Turkish-Cypriot police said they believe a fire bomb was thrown at the building, igniting explosives planted outside the church.

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