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Violence marks anti-nuclear protests in Germany

From Diana Magnay, CNN
  • Protest group says four demonstrators were seriously injured
  • Police say they were attacked by protesters
  • Germany said in September it would extend the life of nuclear plants

(CNN) -- Protests against the storing of nuclear waste in Germany and extending the life of the nation's nuclear plants turned violent in spots on Sunday, according to protesters and police.

A train carrying nuclear waste left Lueneburg station Sunday on its way to Dannenberg, said Nicole Ramrath, Lueneburg police spokeswoman. After making the 50-kilometer (31-mile) trip by rail, the shipment will be unloaded onto trucks and driven to the storage site at Gorleben, in north-central Germany about 209 kilometers (130 miles) northwest of Berlin.

The train left France on Friday, headed for Goreleben. It's the 11th such transport in the past three decades, but has provoked outrage in Germany after the government announced in September it would extend the life of the nation's 17 nuclear power plants by 12 years. They were due to be decommissioned in 2020.

Along various stretches of the route in the Wendland area, protesters attacked police with sticks and pepper spray, and the authorities responded in kind, Ramrath said. In Harlingen, officers on horseback were brought in to control the crowds, and water cannon were used against the protesters in various areas, she said. Demonstrators set a police vehicle on fire, Ramrath said.

Sonja Schubert from the Castor Schottern protest group said it had finished their actions for the day as of Sunday evening. The group believes the day's activities were "successful" in spite of what she said was "massive police aggression." Numerous protesters were injured in clashes with police, four of them seriously, with head wounds and one broken arm, she said. She could not confirm whether any protesters were hospitalized.

Ramrath had no information on how many people were arrested, and would not say how many police were brought into the area.

As of Sunday night, about 1,500 protesters remained near Gorleben and another 2,000 at Harlingen, along the rail route, Ramrath said. "At the moment, these protests are peaceful," she said.

A protest Saturday in Dannenberg drew thousands of demonstrators.

On Friday, protesters blocked the train in northwestern France, chaining themselves to the tracks on which it was traveling, authorities said. Four French protesters and one German halted the shipment near a train station in Caen. The train stopped well before the site where the protesters were chained, and the demonstrators were removed by police, authorities said.

The anti-nuclear organization and Greenpeace ally GANVA, or the Non-Violent Anti-Nuclear Action Group, claimed responsibility for the French protest. On its website, GANVA said its members took the action because "nuclear waste exposes the population to unmeasurable risks."

In making the announcement in September that the use of German nuclear plants would be extended, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the change was part of a "revolutionary" new energy policy which will lead toward an era of renewable power.