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Turkish Lawmaker Abducted By Suspected Kurdish Rebels

A Turkish Opposition lawmaker has been abducted by suspected members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed Kurdish separatist organization, in the country's east, Turkish officials said late on Sunday.

According to the officials, Opposition lawmaker Huseyin Aygun, a Kurd himself, was abducted near the eastern city of Tunceli. A massive search operation has been launched in the area to rescue him from his captors.

Aygun's Republican People's Party said in a statement that he was abducted by unidentified gunmen at a roadblock between the town of Ovacik and Tunceli. Although local officials are blaming Kurdish militants for Aygun's abduction, the PKK is yet to claim responsibility for it.

If PKK's involvement is confirmed, it would be the outlawed party's first abduction of a member of the country's Parliament. Incidentally, Aygun is a lawyer and a prominent pro-Kurdish activist.

The incident comes just days after Turkey launched a massive anti-militant operation, including air strikes, close to the south-eastern border with Iraq, following the death of several security personnel in a cross-border militant attack on a check-post.

In recent years, Turkey has witnessed several such cross-border attacks by PKK rebels based in northern Iraq. Ankara has responded to those incursions by launching massive military operations along its border with Iraq and carrying out numerous air strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Turkey launched the air raids after the Kurdish rebels carried out a deadly attack on a border outpost in south-eastern Turkey in October 2007, killing 15 soldiers and injuring 20 others.

The PKK began an armed struggle in 1984 for the establishment of an ethnic homeland in south-east Turkey. They have since carried out several attacks inside Turkey, including cross-border raids from their stronghold in northern Iraq.

An estimated 37,000 people have died in the two-decade-long violence unleashed by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by most of the international community including the United States and the European Union.

Early last year, the Kurdish separatist group announced its intention to end the unilateral truce declared in August 2010. However, PKK leaders recently pledged not to target civilians in future attacks. The group has also dropped its claim for an independent state, and claims now that it is fighting for autonomy and protecting the cultural rights of the Kurdish people.

Notably, Turkish government has initiated efforts aimed at improving the rights of the country's Kurdish minority for ending the armed separatist movement. An end to the Kurdish uprising is expected to help Turkey secure the much-coveted EU membership.

Reforms planned by Ankara provide more rights to the 12 million-strong Kurdish minority in Turkey's south-east, and includes constitutional reforms, the right to teach the Kurdish language in public universities and greater concessions to Kurdish culture.

by RTT Staff Writer

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