PKK frees Turkish prisoners in north Iraq
AL-AMADIYAH, Iraq - The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on Tuesday freed eight Turkish prisoners held for two years in northern Iraq, as part of a new peace push by Ankara to end a 29-year-old insurgency.
The release of the eight captives, including security officers and civil servants, came after a request by jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, who said last month that he hoped to see prisoners "reach their families."
"Responding to the call of our leader Abdullah Ocalan, today we handed over eight prisoners to a Turkish delegation," Bawer Pirson, a senior PKK security leader, told a news conference near Al-Amadiyah, a town about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Turkish border.
"We hope that our attempts succeed to develop a peace process."
He added: "The release was initiated with good intentions from our side."
"Today the ball is in Turkey's court, and they have to demonstrate their goodwill to develop a peace process."
Earlier, Husamettin Zenderlioglu, a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) who was part of the delegation receiving the prisoners, said the group had been received safely.
Zenderlioglu, who was in northern Iraq, spoke to an AFP correspondent near Turkey's border with Iraq.
The PKK is branded by Turkey and much of the international community as a terrorist group."
The Turkish captives are expected to be sent with the delegation to Turkey through the Habur border crossing to meet their families and will be "transferred to the nearest airport," Interior Minister Muammer Guler said ahead of the release.