Kurds attack Turkish targets across Europe: Munich hostages freed after 14 hours - Swiss threaten to expel ambassador in Berne after extremist shot

Click to follow
KURDISH extremists launched attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions and offices across Europe yesterday. In Berne, one person was killed, and about 20 hostages were held for most of the day in the Turkish consulate in Munich.

The Kurds taking the hostages in Germany surrendered shortly before 11.30pm, and were taken to Munich's police headquarters.

Gunther Beckstein, the Bavarian Interior Minister, said: 'The hostage-takers saw that it made no sense any longer. They saw it was a crazy act.'

The drama, lasting more than 14 hours, began when at least eight militants stormed the consulate's visa section as it opened for business. They originally held 21 people, but allowed the last nine women to go free shortly before dusk. One hostage-taker indicated the group had been getting nervous about a possible attack.

'They landed people on the roof with helicopters,' he told a news agency by telephone. 'On their word that they would be withdrawn, we released first a woman who was taken ill, and then the others.'

The attacks had clearly been co- ordinated, and appeared to be the work of the Kurdish Workers' Party, the PKK. The organisation has frequently attacked civilian targets in recent years, as part of its campaign against the Turkish government. Yesterday's wave of violence was, however, unprecedented.

In Marseilles, Kurds seized the Turkish consulate and took hostages, but gave themselves up after a three-hour siege, having being allowed to go on French television. At the Turkish embassy in Berne, seven people were wounded and one man died, apparently when security guards shot at violent demonstrators, later described by the ambassador as 'a group of terrorists . . . armed with stones, sticks and petrol bombs'.

The Swiss government summoned the Turkish ambassador, Kaya Toberi, to protest at his failure to hand over weapons to Swiss authorities for tests to determine who inflicted the casualties. It warned that Mr Toberi might be expelled if Turkey refused to co-operate.

There were also attacks on consulates, banks and airline and tourist offices in Geneva, Zurich, Stockholm and Copenhagen. At least ten other attacks and violent demonstrations took place in German cities, including Berlin, Frankfurt, Bonn and Hamburg. In London, police arrested 24 Kurds, including 11 women, who invaded a Turkish bank in the City.

Turkish authorities complained publicly about the failure of European governments, in particular Germany, to take a heed of their warnings of possible PKK action.

In Munich, the hostage-takers earlier demanded that Chancellor Helmut Kohl should go on television to insist that Turkey 'stop all combat action against the Kurdish population'.

Mr Kohl was always unlikely to criticise Turkish policy. After the arson- killing of five Turks in the German town of Zolingen last month, he has emphasised his support for the Ankara government, which is on the point of launching a huge attack against the PKK in Turkey.

During the drama at Munich, the entire area was ringed off. Armed police units, wearing helmets, balaclavas and bullet-proof vests were positioned in the bushes around the building.

A police spokesman said the Kurds were well armed from a cache of weapons they had found in the embassy.

The attack - in common with all the others across Europe - began at about 10am. It is thought that the men had stood in the queue at the consulate before beginning their assault.

The Turkish Consul escaped, apparently through a back window, as the attack began.

Bloodbath looms in Turkey, page 12