updated 3/17/2004 5:19:42 AM ET 2004-03-17T10:19:42

At least five people have been killed in clashes between Kurds and the police in northern Syria, a Kurdish politician said Wednesday.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Syrian government, which has not issued any figures for casualties since Kurdish clashes with police began on Friday.

Ahmed Qassem of the Democratic Kurdish Party in Syria said two Kurds and three police officers were killed Tuesday in a riot in Aleppo. Qassem spoke by telephone from Aleppo.

Security forces opened fire on hundreds of Kurds in Aleppo's Ashrafya street who were demonstrating to commemorate the anniversary of the Iraqi military's killing thousands of people in a poison gas attack on the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988, Qassem said.

He added that during the riot, the Kurds fought police with knives, sticks and stones.

Qassem said there was also a riot following a Halabja commemoration ceremony in Afreen, a town 40 miles north of Aleppo.

The latest fatalities bring to at least 21 the number of people who have been killed in fighting between Kurds and the police and members of the Arab majority since Friday.

Soccer brawl triggers violent clashes
The violence began that day with a brawl between supporters of two soccer teams in a soccer stadium in Qamishli, 450 miles northeast of Damascus. One of the teams had a high proportion of Kurdish players. The fighting continued the next day when Kurds went on the rampage in Qamishli during a funeral for the riot victims. It spread to the neighboring city of Hasakah, 50 miles southwest of Qamishli.

According to Kurdish officials and local hospitals, more than 100 people have been wounded in the violence in Hasakah and Qamishli. Residents of those cities described them as tense but calm on Tuesday.

It was not immediately known how many people were wounded in Tuesday's fighting in Aleppo.

The riots are the first major disturbances for many years in Syria, where the ruling Baath party has little tolerance for dissent.

The unrest has raised concern that the Kurds, whom the constitution does not recognize, have been emboldened by the political role that Kurds have assumed in neighboring Iraq since last year's overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Kurds make up about 1.5 million of Syria's 18.5 million people. Most live in the underdeveloped provinces of Qamishli and Hasakah.

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