IN early July, at midnight, three men claiming to be policemen came to the apartment of Vedat Aydin, a prominent Kurdish nationalist and leader of the pro-Kurdish People's Labor Party here. They took him away.Three days later, Aydin's body was found in a roadside ditch. Police have denied any involvement in the death. "Vedat was always very careful, and he would never have left unless he was sure the men were policemen," recounts his widow, Sukran Aydin. "But if they think they can kill Kurdish nationalism by killing one man, they are wrong. There is always another Vedat." Aydin's death is one of a growing number of abductions and killings of Kurdish nationalists in Turkey's southeastern region. This past summer, a bomb exploded in the car of a Kurdish lawyer who often defends alleged guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). The office of the Diyarbakir branch of the Turkish Human Rights Association (THRA) was also bombed, and a popular nationalist mayor of a small town was abducted and killed, according to local and international human rights groups. An editor of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Yeni Ulke, Faysal Dagi, says at least 100 villagers have also been killed over the past six months. Local human rights officials and residents of the southeast attribute these actions to "contra-guerrillas," who they say are backed by the Turkish forces, a charge denied by Turkish officials. These killings have occurred as the overall human rights situation in the southeast remains bleak. Arbitrary detention and torture are a way of life for many of the 8 million residents caught up in the throes of the separatist guerrilla war being waged by the PKK, says Hatip Dicle, head of the THRA branch in Diyarbakir. Village guards, who are armed and paid by the Turkish government to defend their villages against guerrilla attacks, say they are not permitted to resign and give back their weapons. A spokesman for the regional governor in the southeast denies these reports, saying there is a waiting list of people who want to join the 30,000-strong village militia system. According to the New York-based human rights group Helsinki Watch, at least three people died when police fired into crowds at Aydin's funeral. Another 38 people received gunshot wounds, according to the regional governor's office.