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Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Published at 10:56 GMT


World: Europe

Protesters seize embassy hostages

Berlin: one of many pro-Ocalan protests in Germany

Hundreds of supporters of captured Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan have stormed Greek embassies and other public buildings across Europe.

They targeted diplomatic buildings before dawn on Tuesday after hearing reports that the PKK leader had been handed over by the Greek embassy in Nairobi to the Kenyan authorities.

Mr Ocalan was later taken to Turkey to face trial.

His supporters took staff and their families hostage in the Greek embassies in Vienna and the Hague and there were demonstrations in other European cities.

Some protesters have threatened to set themselves on fire unless Mr Ocalan is released.

There follows a run-down of incidents:

United Kingdom

In what appears to have been the first occupation, a group of more than 50 demonstrators stormed the Greek embassy in London's Holland Park in the early hours of Tuesday and barricaded themselves inside.

Armed police surrounded the building and another group of Ocalan supporters staged a protest outside. More have been arriving throughout the morning.

One man, the embassy caretaker, is thought to be held inside the building and a spokesman for the protesters told Reuters news agency: "We are ready to die; We have petrol and we are ready to burn ourselves."

Police have described the situation as "calm" and say they are negotiating with the protesters inside the embassy.

Netherlands

Around 150 Kurds stormed the Greek ambassador's residence in The Hague and have taken the ambassador's wife and 8-year-old son hostage. A Philippines national was also taken hostage in the building.

Dutch police say the protesters do not appear to be armed but the Greek Foreign Minister Theodore Pangalos said the ambassador's family are being threatened with a hand grenade.

Austria

PKK supporters stormed the Greek embassy and the Kenyan embassy in Vienna 0400 GMT. Greek Foreign Minister Pangalos said the ambassador was being held hostage. Austrian police said his wife was also in the building.

At 0730 GMT more Kurds stormed the Kenyan embassy which is close by. They are reported to have threatened to burn down the building.

Switzerland

In Geneva, protesters slipped into the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Palais des Nations, and occupied a conference room.

A UN spokeswomen said they entered the grounds of the Palais shielded by a delivery truck at at 0430 GMT.

She said the protesters had broken into the building, smashing doors and a security camera.

Kurdish activists occupied the Greek embassy in the Swiss capital Bern and in the country's consulate in Zurich. In Bern a threat was issued by protesters that they would torch themselves if Mr Ocalan was not released.

Germany

Germany has a large Kurdish population and pro-PKK action has been seen around the country.

Greece's embassy in Bonn has been occupied by between 20 and 30 protesters.

Protesters are also reported to have stormed the Kenyan embassy in Bonn and to have taken the ambassador hostage.

Fifty activists stormed the Greek mission in Frankfurt and demanded a meeting with the consul.

There are reports of similar protests in Stuttgart and Berlin.

France

In Marseille, several dozen demontrators occupied the Greek consulate and threatened to set themselves on fire.

Police are reported to have begun to evict the protester and there are reports that four policemen have been injured and one protester.



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