Thousands protest in Turkey to show solidarity with Kobane Kurds

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Thousands of people on Saturday took to the streets in Turkey in an international day of solidarity with the mainly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane which has been besieged by jihadists for over six weeks.

Around 1,000 pro-Kurdish supporters took part in a march in central Istanbul which was so far peaceful following warnings from the authorities they would not tolerate any unrest, an AFP correspondent said.

But the biggest event took place in Turkey's largest Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir where at least 15,000 people marched, flashing the 'V' for victory sign amid heavy police security, an AFP photographer reported.

The demonstrations had originally been called by Turkey's biggest pro-Kurdish party the People's Democratic Party (HDP), and the government had sternly warned against any disorder.

"Peaceful demonstrations will be allowed," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday, but the security forces "would do what is necessary" if the situation degenerated.

Tensions are currently running high between the government and Turkey's Kurds after pro-Kurdish protests last month left over 30 people dead across the country.

Many Kurds in Turkey are angry over the government's perceived lack of support for the Kurds fighting for Kobane against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists who have carried out a litany of atrocities including beheadings.

It remains to be seen if the arrival late Friday of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Kobane - after transiting through Turkey - will ease tensions.

"Kobane is a symbol of the Kurdish resistance," said Bulent, 51, one of the demonstrators in Istanbul.

Many of the Kurdish demonstrators in Istanbul waved banners with the face of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned head of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), still seen by many Kurds as their overall leader.

The PKK has waged a 30-year armed struggle with the Turkish security forces for self-rule and greater rights for Kurds in southeast Turkey.

It has largely observed a ceasefire since March 2013 amid a fragile peace process with the government. But violence has flared again in the last weeks as tensions flared over the Kobane crisis.

Meanwhile, some 5,000 people demonstrated in solidarity with Kobane in the Turkish town of Suruc, 10 kilometres (six miles) from the border and from where the peshmerga had left for Kobane the day before, an AFP TV reporter said.

Following the HDP's call, international demonstrations were also expected to be held across Europe and in Australia and the United States.