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3 Kurd Protesters Killed in Berlin

February 18, 1999

BERLIN (AP) _ Israeli security guards shot and killed three Kurds who forced their way into the Israeli consulate Wednesday with dozens of protesters enraged by reports that Israel aided in the arrest of the foremost Kurdish rebel leader.

Turkish officials jubilantly released a videotape of their captive, Abdullah Ocalan, dramatic footage showing him handcuffed and sweating, his eyes taped shut. Officials said he was being interrogated in an island prison and promised a fair trial, but refused to allow three of his foreign attorneys into Turkey.

In Berlin, as many as 100 demonstrators _ some brandishing clubs and iron bars _ pummeled their way past 30 German police officers sent to the Israeli consulate 30 minutes earlier after officials received reports that Kurds planned to take the building, police chief Hagen Saberschinsky said.

The Kurds climbed a fence surrounding the four-story white building and broke through the door. A man and a woman were shot to death in the consulate’s foyer and another man was shot in a stairwell, Saberschinsky said.

Nine Kurds barricaded themselves inside one room, briefly taking a female consular employee hostage.

At least 43 people were injured: 16 demonstrators and 27 police officers. Police said they arrested 220 Kurds, 45 at the consulate and the remainder at demonstrations after the shootings.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Israel had no role in Ocalan’s arrest and defended the shootings, saying the guards acted in self-defense.

Israel had put its diplomatic missions on alert earlier after a news report claimed that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency helped Turkey track Ocalan (pronounced OH’-jah-lahn).

The violence in Berlin _ the worst in two days of protests over the 49-year-old rebel leader’s arrest _ brought stern warnings for Germany’s half-million Kurds to curb their outrage.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany would ``not tolerate having political conflicts from foreign countries carried over into German streets.″ And Interior Minister Otto Schily threatened to deport Kurds involved in violent protests.

Ocalan and his guerrillas have waged a 14-year war for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey. Almost 37,000 people have died in the conflict. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Kurds began seizing Greek diplomatic posts across Europe early Tuesday after learning of Ocalan’s capture in Kenya, where he had been hiding at the Greek ambassador’s residence in Nairobi.

Many of the demonstrations ended Wednesday. But about 40 protesters held a clerk hostage in the Greek Embassy in London and announced they were beginning a hunger strike, police said. Occupations also continued at the offices of political parties in Sweden and Austria.

A standoff in Hamburg, Germany ended when the Kurds released a hostage and departed. Several were arrested.

In Ottawa, Canada, an officer’s jacket was set afire by a Molotov cocktail Wednesday as Kurdish demonstrators clashed with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

About 200 protesters rushed a police barricade outside the Turkish Embassy, flinging rocks and snowballs and swinging the sticks of their placards. Police arrested at least two demonstrators and used pepper spray to repel others.

In Japan, the protests Thursday were peaceful, with more than 30 Kurds holding a sit-in front of the Greek Embassy.

The State Department warned that Kurdish violence could extend to American interests, and urged U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to review their personal security.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said four or five Turkish commandos, a pilot and a doctor took part in the covert operation that brought Ocalan back to Turkey. Turkish intelligence released a videotape showing Ocalan being put aboard a private jet in Kenya, blindfolded with tape and in handcuffs.

On the video, masked Turkish commandos strap Ocalan into a seat and the tape wrapped around his head is cut off. He winces. A close-up shows his face drenched in sweat.

One of the commandos tells him the tape is rolling.

``You can tape me and broadcast it since you haven’t tortured me,″ Ocalan says. ``I love my country. My mother was a Turk. If there is anything I can do, I will do it. Don’t ask me anything else.″

One of the commandos replies: ``Welcome to your country. You’re our guest now.″

The footage ends with the commandos making victorious ``high-five″ and ``thumbs up″ signs.

The nucleus of the special commando force, known as the ``maroon berets,″ was trained by Green Berets and other American instructors.

The unit gained attention two years ago with the capture of the No. 2 rebel leader Semdin Sakik in northern Iraq and the 1996 seizure of a tiny island claimed by both Turkey and Greece.

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