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Turkey Kurds Syria Strasbourg Recep Tayyip Erdogan Protests

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Europe's Kurds oppose Erdogan in Strasbourg

A demonstrator holds a portrait of Ocalan in Strasbourg on Saturday REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Thousands of Kurds from across Europe demonstrated in the French city of Strasbourg to demand the release of guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan and an end to the Turkish offensive against Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

Police were out in force at the demonstration, which they said attracted 11,000 people while organisers put the number at 25,000-30,000.

Kurds and their supporters have come from across Europe to protest every year since Ocalan, whose Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has been fighting the Turkish state for three decades, was captured in 1999.

He is currently imprisoned on an island off Istanbul.

Strasbourg is the seat of the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government broke off peace talks with Ocalan and launched an offensive against the guerrillas in 2015.

This year it launched Operation Olive Branch in northern Syria against the People's Protection Units (YPG), which it claims is part of the PKK.

The YPG had seized control of territory, including the district and city of Afrin, in a US-backed battle with the Islamic State armed group.

The chants of "Freedom for Ocalan!" were joined by calls to end the "genocide in Afrin" on Saturday's protest.