PKK kidnaps 3 German tourists in east Turkey: report

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Kurdish guerrillas have kidnapped three German tourists on a climbing expedition in eastern Turkey, a local governor said on Wednesday.

The three had established a camp on Mount Ararat in Agri province as part of a 13-member climbing team when they were seized by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, state-run Anatolian news agency reported.

Kidnapping tourists is a rare tactic for the outlawed separatist PKK whose activities are mainly focused on attacking military targets in southeast Turkey.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed in Munich on Wednesday the three Germans were kidnapped on Tuesday.

“Our crisis management team has been in contact with officials in Turkey and we’re doing everything possible to free the German citizens,” he said.

Anatolian reported Agri Governor Mehmet Cetin as saying the climbers had arrived in the region three days ago and had established a camp at a height of 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) on the mountain.

Agri province, which borders Iran, is to the north of the main PKK conflict region and is a popular destination for mountain climbers.

Five PKK members approached the camp and chose three people to kidnap, Cetin said. Their identity was not clear.

“The terrorists said they carried out this action because of the German government’s recent moves against PKK associations and sympathizers,” Anatolian quoted the governor as saying.

Last month Germany banned Kurdish television station Roj TV, which Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble described as being a mouthpiece for the PKK.

Germany extradited two PKK militants to Turkey last year.

Cetin said gendarmerie forces were carrying out search operations in the region. The other climbers were taken to the nearest town.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms against Ankara in 1984 with the aim of establishing an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey.

Some 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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