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Kurdish Rebels: Hostage Release Requires German Policy Change

Kurdish rebels said Thursday that they won't release three abducted German mountain climbers unless Germany changes its policies towards the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) and the Kurdish people.

A view of Mount Ararat's peak with a village in the foreground

Ararat borders Armenia and Iran and is Turkey's tallest mountain

In a statement released to PKK-affiliated news agency Firat, the rebels said that they will not release the hostages until the German state announces that "it will end its hostile policy towards the Kurdish people and the PKK."

Lars Holger Renne, 33, Martin Georg, 47, and Helmut Johann, 65, all from Bavaria, were taken hostage late Tuesday night when a group of five PKK guerrillas raided a camp at 3,200 meters (10,500 feet), forcibly waking a group of 13 German climbers.

The other 10 climbers and their guides were left unharmed and returned to the town of Dogabeyezit on Wednesday.

German-Turkish cooperation

A team of German diplomats who specialize in solving abduction cases have been assigned to seek the release of three Germans seized by Kurdish guerrillas in eastern Turkey, Foreign

Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said late Wednesday on German TV.

"We are working hard to establish the circumstances, and naturally we are doing everything possible to obtain a release as soon as possible," he said on German public broadcaster ARD.

Silhouettes of Kurdish demonstrators on a PKK flag

German authorities are keeping a close eye on PKK activities

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 to Turkey suspected PKK members. Last year, two PKK members wanted in relation to attacks in Turkey were extradited after Turkey abolished the death penalty.

Little media interest

Turkish authorities meanwhile closed Mount Ararat to climbers on Thursday.

"We have closed Mount Ararat to climbers until further notice because of the operation (to rescue the mountaineers)," Agri Governor Metin Cetin told the Anadolu news agency on Thursday.

Turkish media downplayed the story of the abduction Thursday amid reports of an al-Qaeda connection to an attack on the US consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday instead dominating the media.

Turkey's best-selling newspaper Hurriyet relegated the hostage story to a single paragraph on page 18 concentrating on the angle that the PKK guerrillas had said they were kidnapping the three mountaineers to protest recent German government activities against the PKK.

Most other Turkish newspapers also reported little on the hostage-taking, but all concentrated on the claim by the PKK guerrillas that they would release the three in "a few days time."

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