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Kurds in Syria Bury Protesters

Five were killed during demonstration to mark Saddam Hussein's chemical attacks.

March 18, 2004|From Reuters

ALEPPO, Syria — Syrian Kurds on Wednesday buried five people they said had been shot by police Tuesday as they demonstrated to commemorate ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's 1988 chemical attacks on Kurds in Iraq.

A truck flying a Kurdish flag followed a vehicle bearing the body of Ibrahim Mohammed, one of the five, through the small town of Afrin in northern Syria.

People lined the route to the graveyard in a nearby village along streets scarred by scorch marks from tires burned in Tuesday's protest.

Shops were closed and police guarded public buildings Wednesday, but there was no fresh violence.

Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam accused unspecified foreign forces of "trying to benefit from these incidents."

A Syrian Kurdish leader accused Damascus of trying to turn the clashes between police and Kurds into an ethnic conflict after reports of clashes in northern Syria between Arabs and Kurds that left several dead over the weekend.

A Syrian official denied a report by Turkey's Anatolian news agency that its forces had opened fire on Kurdish protesters in northern Syria.

Qamishli residents said police arrested four Kurds on Tuesday night as they attempted to set fire to a gas station.

Khaddam did not give any figures for those killed or injured in the violence but said media accounts were inaccurate.

Kurds make up about 2 million of Syria's 17 million people. They have often said they want rights equal to Syrians' and demand citizenship for about 200,000 stateless Kurds.

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