Irate Kurds protest across Europe over Ocalan's arrest
February 16, 1999
(CNN) -- Angry Kurdish protesters took hostages and set fires Tuesday as they stormed embassies and consulates from London to Moscow, protesting the arrest of Kurdish activist Abdullah Ocalan.
Kurdish demonstrators burst into the Greek and Kenyan embassies early Tuesday in Vienna, Austria, and took five hostages at the Greek mission, including the ambassador.
Kurds at the Kenyan Embassy threatened to set it on fire if their demands for talks aren't met.
At the Greek Embassy, Ambassador Ioannis Yennimatas and his wife were reportedly unhurt, and were in telephone contact with visiting Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos and Austrian President Thomas Klestil.
Ocalan, wanted on terrorism charges in Turkey, reportedly was handed over to Kenyan authorities Monday after seeking refuge at the Greek Embassy in Nairobi. Kenyan police then handed the Kurdish leader over to Turkish authorities.
Ocalan heads the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a 15-year war for autonomy from Turkey.
In Washington, the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton called on the Kurds to release their hostages and lay down their arms.
'It is purely a political affair'
At The Hague, about 150 Kurds entered the Greek ambassador's residence and took three hostages, including the ambassador's wife and 8-year-old son. The ambassador was not home at the time. Police stopped a separate group of about 100 Kurds trying to reach the residence, arresting many of the demonstrators.
In London, protesters took over the Greek Embassy and threatened to burn themselves to death. They demanded Ocalan's release and blamed Western governments for the plight of Turkey's Kurdish minority. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the embassy.
Russian police arrested 49 protesters who occupied the Greek embassy for 2 1/2 hours Tuesday. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov condemned the takeover, but police officials said the detainees were likely to be freed without facing charges.
"It is purely a political affair," a police spokesman said.
Protests erupted throughout Switzerland. In Geneva, 30 to 40 protesters occupied the main United Nations building, and in Zurich and Berne, demonstrators occupied Greek diplomatic buildings.
In France, several people were injured when police in Strasbourg forced about 30 demonstrators out of the Greek consulate. Another 20 Kurds were arrested in Paris trying to enter the Greek Embassy.
Kurdistan Workers Party Information
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