Turkey's Armenian community on alert after attacks

Turkish Armenians are on edge after weekend attacks against members of the community during Orthodox Easter raised fears about their security.

An unidentified assailant fired seven blank rounds outside an Armenian church in Istanbul's Kumkapi neighbourhood on Sunday, causing panic among people celebrating Easter there, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.

A young Armenian was also beaten the same day by a gang outside a church in the nearby neighbourhood of Samatya, Archbishop Aram Atesyan of the Armenian Orthodox patriarchate, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

"These attacks are designed to intimidate members of our community and other minority groups," he said, appealing for greater security.

Last month, a group of about 30 to 40 people attacked an evangelical church shortly after it was inaugurated, the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey said.

"The attackers smashed the windows of the church by throwing stones and eggs and tried to enter it," the association said in a statement.

Several attacks in recent years have targeted members of the Christian community, including priests, in predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular Turkey.

Turkey's Armenian minority numbers around 70,000 people, most of them living in Istanbul. They often complain of being considered second-class citizens in the country.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in a 1915-16 genocide by Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey says 500,000 died of fighting and starvation during World War I and categorically rejects the term genocide.