Bulgaria's Largest Roma Quarter Up In Arms as Tensions in Plovdiv Escalate
The Roma living in the Stolipinovo quarter in Bulgaria's Plovdiv has started to arm themselves amidst escalating ethnic tensions, Plovdiv media report.
Roma from across Stolipinovo and other Roma-inhabited quarters – Adzhasan Mahala and Sheker Mahala – are reported to be seen arming themselves with sticks and shovels Sunday night in the aftermath of the incident in the village of Katunitsa where the murder of a 19-year-old Bulgaria led the local ethnic Bulgarians to revolt against the clan of notorious Roma boss Kiril Rashkov over the past couple of days.
"We are getting increasingly worrying reports," Plovdiv24.bg, a local news website reported Sunday night, stressing that armed bands of Roma can be seen across the city, and are expected to stage riots overnight.
Meanwhile, another Plovdiv news site, Podtepeto.com, reported that protesters have set on fire a club in the Stolipinovo quarter, and have attacked and beaten the participants in an ethnic Turkish wedding in the Dzhumaya Mosque.
As of late Sunday night, the tension in the Roma quarters in Plovdiv is said to have subsided somewhat as a result of mediation efforts by the police, the local authorities, and the ethnic Turkish party DPS. The tensions are said to have been spurred by clans close to Tsar Kiro by spreading false rumors.
Earlier reports said the police and gendarmerie have managed to prevent an escalation of tensions at the Roma-populated Adzhasan Mahala quarter by forcing local Roma provoking several thousand Bulgarian protesters with indecent gestures and threats into their homes.
Earlier Sunday afternoon, several thousand people who rallied in Bulgaria's Plovdiv to protest against the murder of a 19-year-old boy in the nearby village of Katunitsa set off for a Roma-inhabited quarter in the city.
The protesters rallied on the Unification Square in Plovdiv led by hundreds of bikers Sunday afternoon. At about the same time, the funeral of 19-year-old Angel Petrov in the village of Katunitsa took place.
Petrov was run over and killed by associates of local Roma boss Kiril Rashkov, aka Tsar Kiro, Friday night. This led to protests by local ethnic Bulgarians against Rashkov's Roma clan followed Saturday night by an attack on Rashkov's estates by several hundred football hooligans from Plovdiv and Sofia.
As the protest rally in Plovdiv unraveled Sunday afternoon, several thousands protesters headed for Adzhasan Mahala, a Roma inhabited quarter. Plovdiv, a city of some 350 000, is the home of the largest Roma-inhabited quarter in Bulgaria, Stolipinovo, with a population of about 40 000.
Roma from Adzhasan Mahala have come out of their homes armed with sticks and shovels to meet the protesters, Plovdiv media reported.
The Roma from Adzhasan Mahala started to provoke the protesters with indecent gestures and by waving in the air their impromptu weapons, which served to stir further the rally.
The police and gendarmerie managed to stave off a large-scale escalation of the violence by entering the Roma-inhabited Adzhasan Mahala quarter and asking the locals to go back to their homes without using forces. It took them about 30 minutes to disperse the Roma.
Meanwhile, new detachments of the gendarmerie managed to prevent the rally from crossing into the Roma quarter.
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