German tourists taken hostage by terrorists
Three German climbers are kidnapped by members of the Kurdish Workers' Party, presumably because of recent action by the German government
Ankara -- Three German mountaineers were taken hostage on Mt. Ararat by guerrillas from the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) late on Tuesday night, with the separatists claiming to be acting in protest against the German government.
According to Agri Governor Mehmet Cetin, a group of five PKK guerrillas raided a camp at 3,200 metres altitude at 11pm on Tuesday night, waking a group of 13 German climbers and then selecting three to take hostage.
The guerrillas said they would release the hostages, reportedly from the towns of Abendsberg, Ingolstadt and Regensburg, in a few days time, according to Cetin.
"We have learnt that the hostage taking was done to protest recent German government actions against the terrorist organization," Cetin told the Anadolu news agency on Wednesday.
Germany has in recent years upped cooperation with the Turkish government in attempts to stop PKK activities inside Germany. Just last month Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble banned broadcasts of the Copenhagen-based Roj television, a station that Turkey accuses of being a PKK propaganda channel.
Germany has also been active in extraditing suspected PKK members to Turkey. Last year two PKK members wanted in relation to attacks in Turkey were extradited after Turkey abolished the death penalty.
It may well be that the German mountaineers were not targeted because they were German but merely because they were at the Mt. Ararat camp at the time of the PKK raid, the first such hostage taking event on the mountain in many years.
Mt. Ararat and surrounding regions in eastern Turkey not far from the border with Armenia were the scene of intense fighting in the early 1990s when the PKK insurgency was at its height. A number of tourists in the early 1990s were taken hostage, all later released, but the region has been quiet for a number of years.
PKK activity right across the east and south-eastern regions of Turkey, where the bulk of the Kurdish population lives, dropped considerably following the 1999 capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
During his trial for high treason, Ocalan called for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish problem and the number of armed attacks by PKK militants dropped considerably, enough for the military to drop emergency rule in the southeast.
For the same reason the authorities in 2000 lifted previous bans on climbing the 5,137 metre high mountain, the site where according to biblical account Noah's Ark settled. Climbing Ararat has now become a major tourist attraction.
A number of agencies offer climbs of the mountain, which including climate acclimatization walks takes about five days, and until now the climb has been considered safe.
Whether the authorities decide to re-impose bans on climbing the mountain is now a matter for the future.