Clashes as Cypriots demand British forces out

3rd January 2012, Comments 0 comments

Protesters demanding that British forces withdraw from Cyprus clashed with police at a military base, leaving around a dozen people hurt, police said on Tuesday.

Among the injured late Monday at the British military base of Akrotiri were demonstrators, police officers and a journalist. State television said at least three people were arrested.

Around 120 people had turned up at the Akrotiri compound near the southern coastal city of Limassol, and the protest got off to a peaceful start before quickly deteriorating.

Demonstrators threw stones, sticks and bottles at the base's police force just outside the compound.

Shops and cars were also damaged in the skirmishes with the police, who are mostly Greek Cypriot.

A helicopter was dispatched and loud explosions could also be heard, although police on state television attributed them to fire crackers.

The protest was orchestrated by a new group calling themselves the National Anti-Colonial Platform, with their demands being the immediate withdrawal of British forces from the Mediterranean island.

The group's website vowed to return to a British base to continue their demonstrations.

Britain has retained two sovereign military bases on Cyprus -- at Akrotiri in the southwest and Dhekelia in the southeast -- since the island gained independence from British rule in 1960.

Last month, Britain confirmed it would retain both, with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond saying they "are in a region of geopolitical importance and high priority for the United Kingdom's long-term national security interests".

The bases, home to some 9,000 personnel and their families, are seen as strategically imperative and have in the past been used by British forces in offences against Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

© 2012 AFP

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