German police break up Kurds' protest of Turkish military op

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German police break up Kurds' protest of Turkish military op
Kurdish immigrants and supporters gather for a rally to protest against a Turkish military operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. in Cologne, Germany, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. Police say some 7,000 protesters are demonstrating in the western German city of Cologne, which is one of the centers of the Kurdish community in Germany.Banner in background reads: Resistance. (Rainer Jensen/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — German police broke up a protest rally of more than 20,000 Kurdish immigrants after participants refused to take down flags and symbols of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, German news agency dpa reported Saturday.

The demonstrators had come to the western city of Cologne from all over Germany to protest Turkey’s recent military operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria.

“The protest march has been stopped in order to remove all forbidden banners,” police of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia tweeted Saturday afternoon.

Despite repeated demands from police, many people at the march continued waving flags bearing an image of Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey.

Two people who distributed flags were detained, dpa reported.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known by its Kurdish acronym PKK, is regarded as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies. The group has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state for three decades.

Hostilities between Turkey and Kurdish militants resumed in 2015 after a fragile cease-fire collapsed.

German authorities had feared clashes between Kurdish and Turkish immigrants who back the Syrian military operation ordered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters started operations last week against the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, approaching from three sides and meeting stiff resistance from the U.S.-allied Kurdish militia that controls the enclave.