Kurdish rebels on Sunday released eight Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq, two weeks after capturing them in an ambush inside Turkey. Their release came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said his government is taking "serious measures" against Kurdish rebels who are responsible for launching attacks in neighboring Turkey. Deborah Block has more from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.
Rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, released the eight Turkish soldiers near the border between Turkey and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. A PKK spokesman says they were handed over to Iraqi Kurdish officials in the mountains. The soldiers then boarded a plane in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish administration, and turned them over to the Turkish military.
Kurdish regional government spokesman, Fuad Hussein, says the soldiers are in good health and were treated humanely. He says Kurdish officials had pressured the PKK to release the soldiers.
"We do not consider this as means of using it against the Turkish government and telling them we did this and we expect something back," he said. "Our leadership pushed this issue toward the solution because they believe in the fact that the prisoners must be released, and their efforts succeeded today."
The ambush of the Turkish military also left 12 soldiers dead. It occurred four days after the Turkish Parliament authorized the government to deploy troops across the border in Iraq.
The Turkish government is threatening an incursion because it says Iraq is not cracking down on PKK rebels who conduct raids into Turkey.
Hussein says he hopes Turkey will no longer see Iraqi Kurdish leaders as part of the problem but as making an effort to solve the border conflict.