Kidnapped Turkish soldiers freed
Ankara, November 4, 2007
Eight Turkish soldiers, kidnapped last month in an ambush by outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, were released in northern Iraq and flown to Turkey, officials 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.
Washington has urged Nato-ally Turkey not to carry out a major offensive, fearing it could destabilise northern Iraq and escalate into a bigger regional crisis.
Release of the soldiers should somewhat ease public pressure on the AK Party government to send troops into Iraq. The move also comes a day before Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is due to hold crucial talks with US President George W. Bush in Washington over a potential cross-border offensive.
"The eight soldiers in question returned (to) the Turkish Armed Forces on Nov 4," the chief of staff said on its Web site.
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 have used as bases for cross-border attacks in their 23-year campaign for a homeland in southeastern Turkey. - Reuters