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Monday, June 4, 2012

PKK rebels free kidnapped Briton in Turkey

Kurdish rebels have released a British tourist unharmed a day after his abduction in Turkey's south east, officials have said.

The Foreign Office confirmed the abduction and the subsequent release of the man, but did not provide his name.

"We can confirm that a British national has now been released," the Foreign Office said. "He has since been in touch with his family in the UK."

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency identified the man as James Masami Miyazaki-Ross. He was freed on Sunday evening near the town of Genc, about 25 miles north of where he was kidnapped, the governor's office in the south-eastern province of Diyarbakir said today.

The man was travelling on a bus when he was abducted by the rebels on Saturday night near the town of Lice, the agency said.

Kurdish rebels, fighting for autonomy, have kidnapped but released several foreign tourists unharmed to attract world attention to their cause since they took up arms in 1984. The rebels last kidnapped three German climbers from Mount Ararat in far-eastern Turkey in 2008 but released them unharmed.

The Briton, said to be in his mid-thirties, was abducted on Saturday when militants formed a roadblock by setting two vehicles on fire on a road from Diyarbakir to Bingol, in the country's restive, mainly Kurdish region, Turkish officials said. The bus's final destination had been the city of Trabzon on Turkey's Black Sea coast.

Security officials said they were trying to hunt down a band of up to 15 separatist fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) believed to be the abductors.

The PKK has kidnapped foreigners before, mainly during the 1990s, but abductions of tourists are now rare. The group has recently focused on attacking military targets in south-eastern Turkey.

Kidnapping of Turkish citizens, however, has continued.

Separately, two security personnel were killed when they stepped on an improvised explosive device laid by PKK militants in the Lice district of Diyarbakir province, security officials said on Monday. One of the men killed was the commander of Lice's gendarme, or military police force.

The PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has stepped up attacks on Turkish security targets over the past year after a ceasefire between the militants and the Turkish state broke down.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the militants took up arms in 1984 as part of their fight for more Kurdish autonomy and rights.
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