ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish minister appeared to confirm for the first time that two Turkish intelligence officers have been captured in northern Iraq, saying the government was not in direct talks with the Kurdish militant PKK group to bring them back.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was asked in an interview with Al-Monitor whether the head of Turkish intelligence Hakan Fidan would travel to Erbil for talks about two senior Turkish intelligence officers. Al-Monitor said the officers had been taken to a PKK base in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq.
“Of course our institutions have been working to bring back all our citizens that the PKK kidnapped, but our country doesn’t - we didn’t have any direct contact with the PKK to bring those two persons mentioned back.”
It was the first official Turkish comment on the issue, following media reports in August that militants in northern Iraq had captured two high-level intelligence officials.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Cemil Bayik, one of the leaders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), was quoted in regional media saying the two officers had been sent to Iraq to assassinate him.
The outlawed PKK has been waging an insurgency in Turkey’s southeast, bordering Iraq and Syria, for more than 30 years.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay; editing by Mark Heinrich