By Paul de Bendern
ISTANBUL, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan pledged on Saturday to tackle the "provocateurs" behind the death of a writer who had angered nationalists with his articles referring to a Turkish "genocide" of Armenians.
Hrant Dink, editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos and Turkey’s best known Armenian voice abroad, was shot in broad daylight as he left his office in Istanbul on Friday.
"As a nation we are facing an open and heinous provocation. I am declaring once more as an answer to provocateurs who have blood in their hands that bullets fired at Hrant Dink were fired at all of us," Erdogan told his AK Party.
"We are aware of our responsibility as the government and we’re making this a priority ... Hrant Dink was a son of this land."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Turkish television on Saturday released pictures of the suspected killer — a young man with a trimmed beard.
Newspapers said nationalism and racism were ultimately to blame for Dink’s death.
Dink, 52 and a Christian, was a frequent target of Turkish nationalists, including some prosecutors, for saying the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One was genocide.
Nationalists see such comments as a threat to national unity. Turkey, which is predominantly Muslim, denies genocide was committed and says both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks died in large numbers as the Ottoman Empire was breaking up.
"Those who created nationalist sentiment in Turkey have fed such a monster that there are many youngsters on the streets who do not find the ... state nationalist enough and are ready to take the law into their own hands," wrote Ismet Berkan in his column in Radikal, one of Turkey’s main dailies.
"Politicians, journalists and film makers also contributed to the creation of this murderous nationalist atmosphere."
Armenia, which has no diplomatic ties with Turkey, expressed shock.
"We categorically condemn the act, regardless of the circumstances, and call upon the Turkish authorities to do everything to identify those responsible," Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan said in a statement.
The killing again raised questions about how far Turkey has come in addressing minorities and freedom of expression as it applies to join the European Union.
Dink had received a suspended six-month jail term in 2005 for "insulting Turkey’s identity" in an article that discussed Armenian nationalist ideas of ethnic purity.
Turkey was criticised abroad last year for prosecuting Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk over his comments on the alleged Armenian genocide. His trial later collapsed.
"Hrant Dink symbolised tolerance. Those who shot him have no idea that they also shot Turkey," leading Turkish commentator Mehmet Ali Birand wrote in the Turkish Daily News.
The killing is bound to raise pressure again on Turkey to deal with its past. Last year the French National Assembly passed a law criminalising the denial of an Armenian genocide — a law that Dink opposed.
The attack comes less than a year after one of Turkey’s most senior judges was shot dead by an Islamist lawyer, a killing that also raised questions about tolerance in Turkey. (Additional reporting by Selcuk Gokoluk in Ankara)
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