Police fired water cannon and skirmished with up to 250 youths on Sunday after a Kurdish community center in Brussels was set on fire, police said. The fire caused damage early on Sunday to the building in a district where there is tension between Kurdish and Turkish residents, a police spokesman said. Spokesman Johan Verleyen said a small group of Kurds gathered at the center and were attacked by a group of youths. Police attempted to keep the two groups separated and were themselves attacked by the youths, who threw metal bars and bottles, Verleyen said. Seven were arrested. Verleyen did not identify the ethnicity of the youths but the Belga news agency said they were Turkish. "It is well known there is tension between the Turks and the Kurds, both of whom live in the area," Verleyen said.
An estimated 12 to 15 million Kurds live in Turkey, mainly in the southeast of the country where Turkish security forces have been battling separatist rebels for more than two decades in a conflict that has claimed more than 30,000 lives. Turkey has eased some restrictions on the Kurdish language and culture as part of its efforts to join the European Union. But Brussels says Ankara needs to do more to boost freedom of expression, Reuters reports.