Six hurt as Kurdish protesters storm chemical weapons body
Kurdish demonstrators stormed the headquarters of the global chemical weapons body on Friday, sparking clashes in which six people were hurt and 50 arrested, Dutch police said.
Dozens of protesters alleging that Turkey is using toxic arms in northern Iraq broke through security to enter the grounds of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.
A number of them managed to get inside the lobby of the building before police removed them, diplomatic sources told AFP, while the rest staged a noisy protest outside the front doors.
Police dragged the demonstrators off one by one, put them on the ground and handcuffed them, AFP journalists saw. Some were bundled into waiting vans, but the large number meant many were taken away in a hired bus.
At least a dozen police vehicles sealed off the road outside the OPCW, which is opposite Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s official residence. Several ambulances and a medical helicopter were also at the scene.
Two police officers and four protesters were wounded when the demonstrators “stormed the building”, The Hague police said.
“Around 50 demonstrators have been arrested and transferred to a police location,” a police spokesman told AFP.
“We are investigating the exact events of this afternoon.”
Britain’s delegation at the body said it was “deeply concerned to see protesters break into (the) OPCW” and thanked police for the “swift response”.
It said evidence on chemical weapons used “should be submitted to OPCW through appropriate channels.”
Canada also expressed concern, adding on Twitter: “We hope colleagues @OPCW are doing ok.”
Turkey denies using chemical weapons in its conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Turkish jets regularly attack the separatists’ bases in northern Iraq and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, with several villages having emptied of their inhabitants since a new Turkish army offensive in April.
The PKK and Kurdish organisations in Europe have in recent months accused Turkey of using chemical weapons, including a nerve agent and sulphur mustard gas, in dozens of attacks in northern Iraq.
“We have called on OPCW and all international bodies to come and independently investigate the use of chemical weapons,” Zagros Hiwa, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union, the PKK’s political branch, told AFP.
The protest came a day after the OPCW wrapped up its annual meeting of member states this week, during which Syria and Russia came under pressure for alleged chemical weapons use.