Kurdish rebels say they can hit German targets

The rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which last week kidnapped three Germans in Turkey, said Sunday it was "strong enough" to hit German economic targets, an agency close to the group reported.

Kurdish rebels say they can hit German targets
File photo of Turkish Kurds celebrating with PKK flags in March 2008. Photo: DPA

The group also renewed a call on Berlin to end “hostile” policies towards the group in return for the release of three climbers, kidnapped in the east of the country.

A PKK statement, carried by the Firat news agency, singled out Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government as the target of the hostage-taking, saying that the group had no ill feelings against Germany as a nation.

“Had we had (such feelings) we could have inflicted greater damage to German economic interests in Turkey… We are strong enough to inflict such damage,” it said.

“The Merkel government, together with the Turkish government, must give up sacrificing the Kurdish people’s freedom struggle in the name of certain economic interests,” it added.

On Tuesday the PKK seized three German climbers on Mt. Ararat in the eastern province of Agri.

The rebels said they would keep the hostages unless Berlin ended a crackdown on PKK militants and their supporters in Germany, which is home to about 2.4 million immigrants from Turkey, including about 600,000 Kurds.

Last month, German authorities banned the Danish-based Roj TV from broadcasting in the country because it promoted the PKK.

They also also ordered the closure of a production house that supplied the channel with programming.

In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper on Sunday, Merkel issued a personal appeal for the immediate release of the hostages, saying that Berlin would not allow itself to be blackmailed. Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier rejected demands for a change of policy towards the PKK in exchange for the hostages’ freedom.

Turkish paramilitary troops have launched a sweep to rescue the three men and Mount Ararat has been was declared off-limits until further notice.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the European Union and the United States, has been fighting for independence in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority east and southeast since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.

The group has in the past kidnapped people, among them soldiers, police officers and tourists, but it is not a tactic it frequently employs.