About 100 people or a third of the village where the killings occurred have fled their homes, fearing revenge attacks by relatives of the victims killed in a feud between families on Monday night.

Ten people have been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the murders. Officials have said the perpetrators were members of a state-backed rural militia and used state-issued weapons.

There are about 60,000 village guards in the southeast, part of a policy established in 1985 to protect villages against attacks from separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas seeking an independent Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey.

Monday’s killings, blamed on disputes over property and who should marry the bride, has ravaged Bilge village which had a population of about 350 before the murders.

Responding to concerns about the involvement of the "village guards" in the attack, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said that was an option.

"The village guard system could be reformed or abolished… But one must not make knee-jerk decisions," broadcaster NTV quoted him as telling reporters Thursday.

Such a move would be difficult given the guards importance as a source of income in the impoverished region.

The killings, which put pressure on Ankara to address the root causes of instability in the underdeveloped east compared with the industrialized and wealthy West, has embarrassed many in Turkey as it pursues efforts to join the European Union.

Broadcaster CNN Turk said a parliamentary sub-commission would go to the region to investigate the attack.

VILLAGE EXODUS

Locals loaded furniture, appliances and clothing onto trucks outside their houses in Bilge and left under the supervision of paramilitary police Wednesday evening.

The 12 families, or about 100-120 people, who left Bilge were believed to be related to those suspected of having carried out the Monday evening attack. The sources declined to say where the villagers were heading for security reasons.

Security sources said 27 weapons, two of them unlicensed, had been seized from villagers to prevent revenge attacks. The Interior Ministry has said assault rifles and grenades used by the masked assailants were issued by the state.

Children in the village were receiving psychological support to cope with the trauma of the attack, which left 70 children without one or both parents.

Local authorities have erected tents where visitors can meet and offer their condolences to the villagers, who were being provided food by the Red Crescent humanitarian organization.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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