The Kurdish militant group, PKK, has freed eight Turkish hostages in an attempt to halt a 29-year conflict.
The Kurdish rebels Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had held the hostages for around two years as a reaction to the imprisonment of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, by Turkish authorities.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said it was “joyful” news that the eight were finally returning home from captivity in northern Iraq.
The freed prisoners were sent to Turkey in armoured vehicles where they are set to fly back to their hometown later today.
Rebel leader, Ocalan, who has been in prison for 14 years on charges of treason had already started secret talks with Turkey to end the conflict.
Rebels said that the release came in response to the calls from Abdullah Ocalan, who said last month that he hopes to see the captives “reach their families.”
Turkish authorities and the rebels hope that the release will bring peace and lead to the end of the Kurdish insurgency.
Husamettin Zenderlioglu, a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) who was part of the delegation receiving the prisoners, said: “The peace process will not develop in Turkey without releasing our leader Abdullah Ocalan.”
Turkish officials said that “terrorists” have to withdraw from Turkish territory in order to begin an effective peace process.
The PKK is considered as a terrorist group not only domestically but also by many international communities.
In 2009, Turkish government peace attempts failed when more than 30 Kurds were killed, triggering a strong nationalist backlash.
Peace negotiations resumed last year between the Turkish government and the PKK with hopes to bring an end of almost three decades of conflict, costing around 45,000 lives since 1984.
Rebels are asking for the release of thousands of Kurdish activists and politicians who are kept in detention on charges of association to the PKK.
Tweets about “#Turkish hostages”
Main photo: wikimedia