Kurdish rebels free abducted Turkish soldiers

Eight Turkish soldiers, kidnapped last month in an ambush by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, were released in northern Iraq, a PKK official said on Sunday.

The release of the soldiers came a day after the Iraqi government vowed to hunt down Kurdish guerrilla leaders responsible for cross-border raids into Turkey, in an effort to avert a major incursion by the Turkish military.

In response to what it sees as foot-dragging by the Iraqi government and the United States, Turkey has mustered 100 000 troops on the border with Iraq and threatened to go after the PKK if nothing is done to rein them in.

Turkey wants leaders of the PKK arrested and the closure of camps in northern Iraq which they use as bases for cross-border attacks in their 23-year-old campaign for a homeland in south-eastern Turkey.

The Turkish government stepped up its pressure on Baghdad to act against the PKK militants after PKK guerrillas killed at least 12 soldiers and captured the eight soldiers in an attack on a Turkish army post last month.

In northern Iraq, a Kurdish official said on Saturday the regional government had shut down the offices of a political party which sympathises with the PKK, following calls by the Baghdad government.

Abdul Rahman Chaderchi, a senior PKK member, said the soldiers were released on Sunday.

”At 7.30 the eight Turkish prisoners were delivered to a delegation from the Kurdistan region which also included members of the Democratic Society Party (DTP),” he told Reuters.

He declined to say where the soldiers had been released, but said they were in good health and were released without any ransom or conditions.

Turkish TV said US officials played a role in the release of the soldiers and showed footage of vehicles carrying the soldiers to Turkey.

Chaderchi said that the soldiers were in Iraq when they were released.

The PKK wanted to deliver a message with the release of the soldiers, he said.

”We want Turkey to release our president Abdullah Ocalan,” he said.

Ocalan is serving a life sentence in a prison on an island in Turkey’s Sea of Marmara.

An escalation of separatist violence in recent weeks and the capture of the soldiers sparked a huge public outcry in Turkey and calls for an offensive against the militants based in northern Iraq.

Release of the soldiers can ease the public pressure on the government to send troops immediately to Iraq to crush the PKK guerrillas there.

The Turkish Parliament has approved a resolution allowing an incursion into Iraq, which was opposed by the United States and the Iraqi government.

The Turkish government stepped up its pressure on Washington and Baghdad to shut PKK camps in northern Iraq and hand over senior rebels.

Turkish media have said three lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish DTP were in northern Iraq for talks to have the soldiers freed.

The Turkish government had rejected any talks with the PKK for the release of the soldiers, but said it was doing everything necessary for their return. – Reuters

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Links between colleges, industry vital

Weak partnerships with industry and poor curriculum choices are among the factors driving unemployment among graduates

‘South Africa on a path to unjust transition’

The country needs a greener economy but energy specialists say policymakers must ensure the creation of a fairer economy in the process

Whistleblower helps SIU in diamonds corruption raid

The SIU alleges fraud and graft in state mining company's procurement

SA Mint launches rhino coin

The coins are produced in limited quantities ranging from 500 to 2 000, depending on the demand

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…