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Turkey: Kurdish Rebels Release Kidnapped German Tourists

Turkey's foreign ministry says Kurdish rebels have released three German tourists who were kidnapped earlier this month in the east of the country.

A spokesman says Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan called his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Sunday to let him know the Germans are in good condition and in Turkish custody.

In Berlin, Steinmeier confirmed the release and thanked Turkish authorities for their efforts.

Rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, seized the tourists on July 8 from among a group of 13 German mountain climbers on Mount Ararat in Turkey's eastern Agri province.

Agri Governor Mehmet Cetin told reporters the rebels were forced to release the hostages after an intense Turkish operation aimed at freeing them. He said security forces found the tourists on a hilltop where the PKK had left them before fleeing the area.

Turkish authorities say the three tourists will be transferred to German officials following a routine medical checkup.

The PKK had said it would not release the tourists until Berlin ended a crackdown against rebel supporters in Germany.

Last month, Germany banned Kurdish television station Roj TV, describing it as a mouthpiece for the PKK.

The European Union, United States, Turkey and other countries classify the PKK as a terrorist group.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey for nearly 25 years. The violence has killed more than 30,000 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.