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In a gruesome assault against Turkey's tiny Christian community, five young Muslim Turks entered a Christian publishing office in the southeastern province of Malatya Wednesday and slit the throats of the three Protestant Christians present.

Two of the victims, Necati Aydin, 36, and Ugur Yuksel, 32, were Turkish converts from Islam. The third man, Tilmann Geske, 46, was a German citizen.

The Turkish press reported Thursday that four of the five young men arrested for the murders, all 19 to 20 years of age, admitted during initial interrogations that they were motivated by both "nationalist and religious feelings."

"We did this for our country," an identical note in the pockets of all five young men read, Channel D television station reported. "They are attacking our religion."

According to the newspaper Hurriyet, one of the suspects declared during police questioning, "We didn't do this for ourselves. We did it for our religion. May this be a lesson to the enemies of religion."

In a demonstration against the Zirve Publishing office in Malatya two years ago, local protestors had claimed its publishing and distribution activities constituted "proselytism" among Muslims and should be closed down. Turkish law, however, guarantees the right to engage in religious evangelism if it does not contain proven political motives.

The three Christians were found tied hand and foot to chairs at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the liaison office of Zirve Publishing in Malatya's Niyazi Misr-i district. Their throats had been cut and their bodies marred by multiple stab wounds.

Both Aydin and Geske were already dead when local police discovered their bodies. Police had received a call from a nearby office in the building about a "disturbance" happening in ...

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April 2007

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