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Sunday, February 21, 1999 Published at 19:28 GMT

World: Middle East

Kurds clash with police in Iran

By Iranian Affairs Reporter Sadeq Saba

Thousands of Iranian Kurds have clashed with security forces during angry demonstrations against the capture by Turkey of the Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

Reports from the region say that several people were killed and many more were arrested.

Iranian Kurdish groups say that security forces opened fire on demonstrators chanting slogans against the Iranian government.

[ image: Tehran approves criticism of Israel and Turkey, but not of itself]
Tehran approves criticism of Israel and Turkey, but not of itself
The biggest protests were held in front of Turkish diplomatic missions in Tehran and Urumieh.

The Iranian government at first approved the rallies and encouraged people to condemn Israel - Iran's arch enemy - for its alleged role in helping Turkey to capture the Kurdish rebel leader in Kenya.

Violent demonstrations

But in recent days the demonstrations have turned violent and the security forces have had to use force to disperse the protestors.

Iranian newspapers report clashes between demonstrators and police in several Kurdish towns. One paper said at least two people were killed by police in Urumieh.

Iranian Kurdish groups abroad have confirmed the killings. They say the Iranian Kurds took advantage of the situation to express their own grievances.

A spokesman for the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party told the BBC that as demonstrators chanted slogans against Iranian leaders they were attacked by government forces.

Iran has a population of about five million Kurds who have a long history of struggle for autonomy.

In recent years several Iranian Kurdish leaders have been assassinated in European capitals.

Two years ago a court in Berlin implicated Iranian leadership in the murder of four Kurdish leaders in Germany.

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