Three German alpinists held hostage by Turkey's rebel Kurdish group PKK were freed on Sunday, after "army operations" were "tightening their grip". They had been seized on July 8 during a climb on Ararat in the Agri province.
Three German climbers kidnapped earlier this month by Kurdish rebels in eastern Turkey were freed Sunday, the Turkish foreign ministry announced.
"(Turkish) Foreign Minister Ali Babacan called his opposite number in Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to tell him that the three German citizens are now in the hands of Turkish forces and are in good health," said spokesman Burak Ozugergin.
The trio -- Helmut Johann, Martin Georpe and Lars Holper Reime -- were seized by separatist rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on July 8 during a climbing expedition to Mount Ararat in Agri province.
Agri Governor Mehmet Cetin told the press that the rebels "were forced to release the hostages because the army operations aimed at freeing them were tightening their grip."
The men were released on a mountain in the region and were picked up 30 minutes later by police, the spokesman said.
"They are currently undergoing health checks and then will be handed over to the German authorities so they can return to their country," Cetin said at a televised news conference.
The rebels had said they would hold the hostages until Berlin ended its crackdown on PKK supporters in Germany, which is home to about 2.4 million immigrants from Turkey, including about 600,000 Kurds.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a personal appeal for the release of the Germans, but Steinmeier at the time rejected the demands for a change in policy in return for their freedom.
Listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has waged a bloody campaign for self-rule in the Kurdish-majority east and southeast since 1984.
The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives, but the group's attacks in the past 10 years have usually targeted security forces rather than civilians.
Date created : 2008-07-20