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Europe
Clashes hit German anti-Islam rally
Scuffles amid protests in Cologne as right-wing group rallies against mosque.
Last Modified: 10 May 2009 05:40 GMT
Scuffles broke out between police and protesters but there were no immediate reports of arrests [AFP]

Scuffles have broken out after about 1,600 people demonstrated against a rally held by a group opposing the building of a mosque in the German city of Cologne.

The rally, held by Pro Koeln, a right-wing group, led to violence after left-wing demonstrators demanded entry to it on Saturday, saying it had been described as a public event.

Wolfgang Baldes, a police spokesman, said: "There were minor scuffles.

"We've not allowed some of the protesters to get into the square ... police intervened and secured a distance.

"We have more than 5,000 policemen here for the weekend, we are well prepared."

'Racism and agitation'

The counter-demonstration by hundreds of left-wing protesters, members of church groups, trade unions and the Green party came after about 200 people turned out for the Pro Klein rally.

"Today we're sending a signal that democrats stand united against right-wing radicalism, racism and agitation," Reinhard Bütikofer, the former head of the Green party, said.

Police had earlier banned Pro Koeln and Pro NRW, an allied group, from holding its demonstration in front of the Cologne cathedral in the city centre, and allowed them to assemble at a square in the Deutz district.

A march planned by right-wing groups to the site of the planned mosque on Sunday has also been banned.

The march had been expected to mark the culmination of a three-day "convention" to oppose the construction of mosques and immigration of Muslims to Germany.

Germany is home to three million Muslims, who make up four per cent of the country's population.

Source:
Agencies
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