Immigration: Latest attacks: Clashes disrupt peace demonstration as right-wing arsonists strike again: Agencies

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The Independent Online
SOLINGEN (Reuter) - Riot police clashed with hundreds of demonstrators at an anti-racism rally in the city yesterday, a week after five Turks died in an arson attack by right-wing extremists.

Fighting involving rival groups of Turks and left-wing militants flared up half way through what was meant to be a peaceful protest against racism, violence and hatred of foreigners, in a large car park near a sports hall. Police said at least three people were hurt.

Hours earlier, firebombers had struck at Turkish properties in two areas. A woman and five children escaped when their home in Hattingen, near Solingen, was gutted. The woman's three-year- old son roused her at 1.10am after he was woken by smoke. Downstairs rooms were on fire, and the family escaped through a bedroom window. The woman's husband was at work.

A Turkish restaurant in the southern town of Konstanz was destroyed in the other suspected firebombing by right-wing extremists, police said. No one was injured.

Much of the fighting in Solingen appeared to be between rival Turkish groups attacking each other with iron bars and flare pistols. But left-wing German militants, wearing characteristic black hoods, threw stones at police.

About 2,000 police were on hand to deal with any violence after earlier eruptions when young Turks rioted for three nights following the arson attack last weekend which killed three Turkish girls and two women.

'This is not a rally of reconciliation,' said a young Turk who declined to be identified. 'We are still showing anger.'

The rally later resumed its scheduled programme with songs and speeches before a 10,000- strong crowd, which had converged on the city centre in a star pattern with banners saying 'Foreigners are human beings, not game to be hunted'.

The numbers fell short of the 50,000 expected by organisers, including Turkish cultural groups, trade unions, environmentalist and civil rights groups.

Vera Kulbach, 43, a German demonstrator, said: 'This (rally) does not mean that Germans and Turks in Solingen have forgiven each other. Those who are here have come to support the foreigners, but if you go into any bar in town you can still hear the racist comments.'

Shop windows were still boarded up in the wake of the earlier riots.

Protests against racism were also held in Kiel, Hamburg, Bremen and Hannover, in a revival of the mass demonstrations against racist violence that followed the neo-Nazi firebombing of three Turks in the northern town of Molln last year.