Kurdish rebels kidnap Turkish lawmaker

The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers` Party, or PKK, are fighting for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast region.

Ankara: Turkish troops have launched a search for a lawmaker kidnapped by Kurdish rebels near the eastern city of Tunceli, authorities and the lawmaker`s party said.

Huseyin Aygun, from the main opposition Republican People`s Party, was abducted last evening at a roadblock between the town of Ovacik and Tunceli, said party spokesman Haluk Koc during a televised news conference.

A journalist and an adviser travelling with him were set free, he added.

"For the first time, a lawmaker has been kidnapped by the terrorist organisation," Koc said. "It shows where the level of terrorism has reached."

The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers` Party, or PKK, are fighting for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast region and maintain bases in northern Iraq from where they launch hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets.

The group is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

Turkey has raised concerns that the rebels could now also exploit a power vacuum in neighbouring Syria, and has warned it will "not tolerate" any rebel threats from Syrian territory.

The Turkish government said last month that the rebels have seized control of five towns along the border in collaboration with Syria`s Democratic Union Party, or PYD, an ethnic Kurdish grouping. Turkey has launched military drills near the frontier in a show of strength.

NTV television reported Governor Mustafa Taskesen of Tunceli province as saying that Aygun was kidnapped under orders from Kurdish rebel command, which is based deep in northern Iraq.

He said troops were chasing the rebels and a larger operation would be launched early today.

The rebels have previously kidnapped soldiers, local politicians, government workers, journalists and tourists, but never a lawmaker. Most hostages have been released without harm.

NTV reported that Taskesen had highlighted that the kidnapping came ahead of the 28th anniversary of the rebels` first armed attack on August 15, 1984.

Aygun was elected to Parliament to represent Tunceli, where he worked as a lawyer for 14 years.

According to his website, his work focuses on human rights abuses, such as the forcible evacuations of Kurdish villages to deny support to the rebels in rural areas, as well as torture cases.


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