“We are very happy to be returning to Germany in good health,” one of the freed hostages Lars Holger Reime said in a brief statement carried on German television networks. “It was a difficult time, but we coped with it relatively well. We were relatively well treated by our kidnappers and on a physical level we are doing pretty well.”
Reime, who refused to take questions, thanked the German and Turkish authorities for having resolved the matter without resorting to military action. “That was our big fear,” he said.
Reime, Helmut Johann and Martin Georpe were kidnapped by rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on July 8 during a climbing expedition to Mount Ararat in the eastern province of Agri.
They were freed on Sunday unharmed. Turkish officials said tightening army operations in the region had forced the rebels to free the hostages.
The PKK had said it would hold the hostages until Berlin ended its crackdown on the group’s supporters in Germany, which is home to about 2.4 million immigrants from Turkey, including about 600,000 Kurds.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the European Union and the United States, has been fighting for self-rule 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 soldiers, policemen, tourists and journalists, among others, but it is a rare tactic.