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Page last updated at 13:27 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 14:27 UK

German climbers seized in Turkey

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Three Germans have been kidnapped by Kurdish guerrillas while on a climbing expedition in eastern Turkey, a local Turkish governor says.

He said the tourists were seized by five PKK militants while climbing Mount Ararat, in Agri province.

The Germans were part of a 13-member climbing team, the governor said.

Turkey has in recent months stepped up its campaign against PKK bases in northern Iraq, in response to an increase in attacks by the group.

"The terrorists said they carried out this action because of the German government's recent moves against PKK associations and sympathisers," Agri Governor Mehmet Cetin said, according to the state-run Anatolian news agency.

In June, Germany banned a Kurdish television station which the country's interior minister said was a mouthpiece for the armed group.

Germany also extradited two PKK militants to Turkey last year.

Paramilitaries

Government forces were reported to be involved in an operation to find the kidnapped climbers.

Other members of the group were taken to the nearest town.

A spokesperson from the German foreign ministry said its embassy was in close contact with Turkish authorities.

The group of climbers had set up a camp at 3,200m (10,500ft) on the mountain, the highest in Turkey and a popular tourist destination.

News of the kidnapping coincided with an attack on policemen guarding the US consulate in Istanbul, though there is no suggestion of a link.

The PKK, which is seeking autonomy for Kurds in south-eastern Turkey, is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and EU.

More than 30,000 people have been killed since the group began its armed campaign in 1984.



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