Kurdish militants kidnap Turkish MP-local governor

TUNCELI, Turkey Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:47pm EDT

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's Kremlin July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's Kremlin July 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

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TUNCELI, Turkey (Reuters) - Kurdish militants have kidnapped a Turkish opposition politician in his southeast constituency of Tunceli, the local governor's office said on Sunday, a day after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan again warned their activities were on the rise.

Huseyin Aygun, a parliamentarian for the country's main opposition group, the Republican People's Party (CHP), was seized by members of the separatist militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as he traveled from Ovacik to the city of Tunceli on Sunday night.

The kidnapping comes at a time of heightened tensions in Turkey. Erdogan said on Saturday there was a direct link between increased violence at home and the spiralling conflict in Syria.

Ankara believes the PKK is being armed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and that the group is gaining influence in Syria's Kurdish areas.

The PKK has fought for autonomy for Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984 - a conflict that has cost more than 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish. Turkey, the United States and the European Union list the PKK as a terrorist organization.

On Sunday, a group known as the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) linked to the PKK claimed responsibility for an attack last Thursday on a Turkish military bus that killed a soldier and the driver, and injured a dozen people.

Turkish authorities in the southeast province of Hakkari announced on Saturday that the armed forces had completed an almost three-week operation against PKK positions around the region of Semdinli, in some of the fiercest fighting of recent years.

Erdogan said the PKK had suffered heavy losses and left the area.

(Reporting by Seltem Iyigun; Writing by Alexandra Husdon)

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