Kurdish Rebel Group Frees German Hostages in Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey -- Kurdish rebels have released three German climbers after holding them hostage for more than a week, Turkish authorities said Sunday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan called German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to tell him that "the German climbers were in the hands of Turkish officials and their health condition was good," the foreign ministry said.

The ministry refused to share further details about when or where the climbers were released.

The three men were seized at Mount Ararat in eastern Agri province on July 8, to protest German pressure on Kurdish rebels' supporters in Germany and get Berlin to put pressure on Turkey to halt military operations against the guerrilla group.

Governor Mehmet Cetin of Agri province told reporters Sunday that the rebels were forced to release the hostages when they were pursued by Turkish troops aiming to block their escape routes across the border. The Mount Ararat area borders Iran and Armenia.

"They left them on a hill and fled," Cetin told a televised news conference.

Turkish troops escalated attacks against the rebels in the region after the kidnapping, killing more than 30 rebels.

Cetin said the three were in good condition and would be handed over to German authorities after a routine medical check. Private CNN-Turk television said the climbers were in the border town of Dogubayazit, close to Mount Ararat.

A pro-Kurdish news agency, Firat, quoted the rebel group last week as saying a local unit carried out the kidnapping on its own initiative.