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Climbers Released From Captivity Return to Germany

Three German climbers who were held hostage for 12 days after being abducted by Kurdish rebels in eastern Turkey arrived safely home in Germany on Monday on a scheduled airline flight.

Two of the three climbers after their release

Two of the three climbers, front right and back left, after their release

Security sources at Munich airport said they arrived on a Lufthansa flight from Ankara.

Lars Holger Renne, 33, Martin Georg S., 47, and Helmut Johann H., 65, all from Bavaria, were abducted on July 8 by five Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) guerrillas who raided a 3,200-meter camp on Mount Ararat.

The three were released on Sunday. After spending the night at a police guest house in Agri, the mountaineers flew to Ankara from the eastern city of Erzurum on Monday morning.

German Ambassador to Turkey Eckart Cuntz welcomed the three men at Ankara's Esenboga airport: "Firstly I'm very happy and secondly I'm very thankful," he told reporters in comments translated into Turkish. "Thirdly, long live Turkish-German friendship."

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman on Sunday said the PKK freed the Germans in a mountainous area, where they were found by Turkish police who had been searching for them.

"Half-an-hour after their release our forces came and took charge of them," Mehmet Cetin, governor of Agri province where Mount Ararat is located, said on Sunday.

The three were part of a 13-member expedition attempting to scale Turkey's highest mountain when they were abducted. The others in the party were left unharmed and returned to Germany three days after the incident.

Protest at German policy

The PKK in a statement last week said they had carried out the abductions in protest at the German government's "hostile polices" against the group, threatening that it could target German economic interests in Turkey.

Last month, the German Interior Ministry banned the Kurdish television broadcaster Roj-TV because of its links to the PKK, which is outlawed as a terrorist organization in the European Union and the United States.

Ankara blames the separatist group for the deaths of more than 32,000 people since the early 1980s when the PKK began its fight for independence or autonomy for the mainly Kurdish-populated south-east of Turkey.

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