Police clash with anti-IMF protesters in Istanbul

ISTANBUL: Turkish riot police clamped down on anti-IMF protests in Istanbul for a second day in a row Wednesday as masked demonstrators hurled petrol bombs and smashed shop windows, an AFP reporter witnessed.

Police used tear gas and water jets against about 300 people -- mostly youths from leftist and anarchist groups -- as soon as they started to march from the central Sisli neighbourhood to a nearby convention centre where the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank held their annual meetings.

"IMF, get out! This world is ours," the demonstrators chanted as they unfurled a large banner reading "Long live revolution."

A group of about 100 people -- among them foreigners who were heard speaking in German -- fled into side-streets, breaking the windows of banks, a fast-food shop and a supermarket.

Several young men were seen hurling Molotov cocktails on banks' automated teller machines, while television footage showed one demonstrator shooting fireworks at a police helicopter overflying the area.

The group then moved on to a nearby highway, briefly blocking traffic and throwing stones at a police car. An officer inside the vehicle fired warning shots in the air.

Another policeman was seen falling from his motorcycle after the demonstrators pelted him with stones.

Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said 34 protesters were detained and rejected criticism that the police response was excessive, the Anatolia news agency reported.

He said the violence was planned in advance, stressing that the security forces discovered a car containing 27 Molotov cocktails.

"What were the Molotov cocktails for? To make a press statement, to protest the IMF, to express an opinion or to attack the police?" he said.

On Tuesday, about 100 protesters were taken in custody after a rally of about 2,000 people, organised by trade unions, turned violent, with demonstrators hurling petrol bombs and stones at the police and breaking shop windows.

One policeman, severely beaten by protesters, was hospitalised.

Guler blamed the unrest on members of "illegal groups" and stressed that the police would not tolerate violence.

The IMF and World Bank meetings in Istanbul ended Wednesday.