Kurdish rebels free Turkish lawmaker

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:07pm EDT

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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Kurdish militants on Tuesday freed a Turkish opposition lawmaker whose surprise abduction over the weekend raised fears of an escalating campaign of kidnapping and violence.

Huseyin Aygun, who represents the southeast province of Tunceli region in parliament as a member of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), appeared in good health as he faced reporters on Tuesday night.

"My two-day adventure in the mountains ended tonight. The people who carried this out said they were doing it to spread their political message."

"They said they chose this path to resolve the Kurdish conflict and stop the bloodshed ... there was nothing life-threatening about this, it was a way of making a political statement."

Clashes between the army and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is waging an armed campaign for autonomy in southeastern Turkey, have risen sharply in recent weeks ahead of the 28th anniversary of the start of the conflict on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said PKK attacks are directly linked to the war in neighboring Syria, where Ankara says a PKK-linked group now controls some border areas.

PKK fighters seized Aygun on Sunday on a road in the Ovacik district of Tunceli. The Turkish army launched operations in the Ahponos Valley in Ovacik after the kidnapping.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the PKK, based mainly in northern Iraq, a terrorist group.

August 15, 1984, is considered the start of the PKK's armed struggle, one of the world's most protracted insurgencies in which more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have been killed.

The PKK says it is fighting for greater political and cultural rights for Turkey's estimated 15 million ethnic Kurds, scaling back its earlier demands for an independent state.

(Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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