Germany's angry Turks fight back: Marchers clash with police as teenager is arrested over firebomb killings

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The Independent Online
TURKS clashed with police for the second day running in the town of Solingen last night, after German police said they had arrested a teenager in connection with the firebomb death of two Turkish women and three children. The 16-year-old was said to be from the Solingen area and to belong to an extreme right-wing group.

Several thousand Turks roamed the streets of the steel town north-east of Cologne, some pelting police with rocks, some smashing shop windows and others driving around waving Turkish flags.

Riot police wielding shields and clubs responded with baton charges to clear a crossroads close to the house burned down early on Saturday in a suspected neo-Nazi attack.

In Syke, in north Germany, clashes were reported between Turks and extreme right-wingers. Skinheads threw a bottle at a Turkish car and draped a German war flag from an apartment balcony; the apartment was attacked later by Turks who told police they had 'had enough'.

In Hamburg, about 200 protesters blocked a motorway leading east towards Berlin, causing traffic jams of up to 20km (12 miles) for about three hours, police said.

Protesters waving flags and chanting 'Turkiye, Turkiye' also temporarily blocked the road to Cologne-Bonn airport. Several flights were called off because crews were delayed.

Yesterday afternoon, several thousand people attended an open-air concert in Solingen to honour the victims, after which there were clashes between Turks and around 200 Kurds. The Kurds seek self-determination in eastern Turkey.

Politicians have been keen to emphasise their horror at the events in Solingen. In yesterday's issue of the mass-circulation Bild newspaper, Chancellor Helmut Kohl wrote that the crime showed 'an unfathomable degree of brutalisation and contempt for humanity' - 'It's a disgrace that such murders can happen in the middle of Germany.'

But such statements may not be enough. Turks are angry as never before. So are the radical left-wing groups who are ready to use violence and like to clash with the far right.

On the main road into Solingen police checkpoints have been set up. The mood of the town has changed radically. Immediately after the killing, the atmosphere was of disbelief and mourning. Now, there is violent anger - from Turks and from radical German groups.

The damage done to the town centre yesterday, including looting, was estimated to have cost more than 1m marks (pounds 400,000). Police arrested 17 people, including nine Turks.

The German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, and the Turkish ambassador to Germany, Onur Oymen, issued a joint appeal to the 1.6 million Turks living in Germany not to answer violence with violence.

Mr Kinkel said the state could never guarantee total protection, but everything possible would be done to ensure such attacks were not repeated, declaring: 'We are ashamed of this terrible act. We ask for forgiveness.'

Many Turks are bitter at what they see as the negligent attitude of the German authorities. Many have lived quietly in Germany for decades, providing cheap labour, but with no chance of gaining citizenship or being allowed to vote. A banner across the burnt-out house in the quiet street in Solingen asks: 'Is that the reward for 30 years?'

After much confusion and backtracking, the Bonn government is at last thinking seriously about changing Germany's strict citizenship rules. Mr Kinkel said yesterday that he was in favour of dual citizenship, but insisted that introducing it as a reaction to the killings would only 'inflame' the situation.

The leader of Germany's small Jewish community, Ignatz Bubis, urged the state to be as tough with the far right as it had been with leftist guerrillas in the 1970s and 1980s.

Randolf Puchwein, owner of a now- boarded cafe on the main street of Solingen, who was woken early yesterday by crowds smashing windows - including his own - said: 'I find it so sad. Everybody comes here into my cafe - Germans, Turks, everybody. And anyway, we're not the people who did those things. I can't understand it.'

A funeral service will be held on Thursday in Solingen's town hall square, followed by a service at a mosque in Cologne. The bodies will be flown to Turkey for burial.

Talk of revenge, page 9

Leading article, page 17

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