Seven German soldiers who are in Turkey as part of a NATO mission to install a Patriot missile system near the Turkish-Syrian border were attacked by a group of activists opposed to the deployment of the missile system in Turkey.

The soldiers went to a local bazaar in ?skenderun, Hatay province, to shop after getting permission from their commanders. They were surrounded by a group of 26 activists from the Turkey Youth Union (TGB), youth branch of the leftist Labor Party (?P).

The group tried to put sacks over the soldiers’ heads, in an apparent reference to the American treatment of 11 Turkish soldiers in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah in 2003.

The German soldiers managed to escape from the scene with the help of locals.

The soldiers took shelter in a jewelry shop. After police arrived to the scene, they were transferred to their hotel by security forces. The soldiers are reportedly in good health and were not hurt.

Upon hearing about the incident, riot police showed up. District Police Department Chief Cengiz Ba?ar said the group had violated public order and the law and that those who had engaged in the incident would be detained.

The group continued the protest and chanted various slogans. The head of the group said: “We will not allow Turkey to be the center for attacks on the Middle East. We will not allow American and NATO soldiers to travel freely in this country. Whether it was German or American soldier whose heads we put sacks on, it does not matter. All of them are NATO soldiers.”

After a brief scuffle, riot police detained 28 activists, including TGB President ?lker Yücel. The detainees were released following a police interrogation.

Passersby who witnessed the incident said the group’s members had mistakenly put sacks on the heads of the German soldiers, thinking they were US soldiers.

In 2003 American troops detained 11 Turkish soldiers in Sulaimaniyah on suspicions that the Turkish military unit was preparing to assassinate the Kurdish mayor of the city. The American army put sacks over the Turkish soldiers’ heads while they were detained out of security concerns, but the act had great negative implications among the Turkish public and poisoned relations between the two close allies for some time thereafter.