Hostages return home to Germany after PKK ordeal
Three German climbers who were held hostage
for 12 days after being abducted by Kurdish rebels in eastern Turkey arrived safely home in Germany on Monday on a scheduled airline flight.
One of them, Lars Holger Reime, said, "It was a tough time. But we've come through it relatively well."
A German newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, said Germany's foreign intelligence agency BND negotiated direct via its own channels with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) abductors after Turkey and the Kurds had been unable to agree to any mediator.
In a report to appear Tuesday, it said a BND delegation set out for the kidnapping scene, Mount Ararat, and were halted by Turkish authorities before the German Foreign Ministry intervened to have them let through.
After the airline flight from Ankara, Reime said the trio had been relatively well treated by the abductors.
"So physically we're fairly okay. We're going to need a few days to recover psychologically. We have to let it settle a bit."
Thanking German officials, he added that the trio were grateful to the Turkish government for avoiding any military intervention.
"One of our greatest worries was that we would get caught up in fighting or something like that. Thank God that didn't happen."
Reime, Martin Georg S, 47, and Helmut Johann H, 65, all from Bavaria, were abducted on July 8 by five PKK guerrillas who raided a 3,200-metre camp on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said the PKK freed the Germans on Sunday in a mountainous area, where they were found by Turkish police who had been searching for them.
"Half-an-hour after their release our forces came and took charge of them," Mehmet Cetin, governor of Agri province where Mount Ararat is located, said.
Neither Germany nor Turkey has fully explained what prompted their release, but the German Foreign Ministry praised Turkish officials for their understanding during the crisis.
The Sueddeutsche newspaper said the negotiations with the PKK had never involved any ransom.
The three alpine mountaineers had been part of a 13-member expedition attempting to scale Turkey's highest mountain when they were abducted. The others in the party were left unharmed and returned to Germany three days after the incident.
The PKK in a statement last week said they had carried out the abductions in protest at the German government's "hostile polices" against the group, threatening that it could target German economic interests in Turkey.
Last month, the German Interior Ministry banned the Kurdish satellite-television broadcaster Roj TV because of its links to the PKK, which is outlawed as a terrorist organization in the European Union and the United States.
Ankara blames the separatist group for the deaths of more than 32,000 people since the early 1980s when the PKK began its fight for independence or autonomy for the mainly Kurdish-populated south-east of Turkey, dpa reported.