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Kurdish groups warn France after alleged PKK leader arrested
October 12, 2012 / 4:35 PM / in 5 years

Kurdish groups warn France after alleged PKK leader arrested

* Kurdistan National Congress member Adem Uzun imprisoned in France

* Paris alleges Uzun belongs to PKK, suspects him of buying weapons

* Clashes between Turkey, PKK militants on the rise

By John Irish

PARIS, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The Kurdish National Congress, a coalition of Kurdish groups across Europe, said on Friday it considered the arrest of one of its members in France as a “head-on attack” against the Kurdish people to satisfy Turkey.

Adem Uzun, deemed by Ankara to be the main leader in Europe of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) armed separatist group, was detained this week pending trial on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist association and trying to acquire weapons.

Clashes in recent months between the Turkish army and PKK militants - classified as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union - have been among the heaviest since the group took up arms 28 years ago.

“With this arrest, France has met the expectations of (Turkish Prime Minister) Erdogan,” the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) said in a statement.

“The KNK considers the arrest of Adem Uzun to be a head on attack against the Kurdish people and we hope the French state will reverse this decision.”

A French official at the public prosecutor’s office said Uzun, who had been under surveillance for several months, was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the purchase of anti-tank missiles for his organisation, including one contract worth 1.2 million euros ($1.56 million).

The official said Uzun and two other men belonged to the PKK and had been detained as part of the investigation. Ankara had not yet asked for his extradition, the official said.

A government source in Ankara said he was wanted by Turkish authorities.

Another arm of the PKK, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), threatened Paris directly on Wednesday.

“The KCK ... calls on the French state to desert its hostile attitude against Kurds. Otherwise, the Kurdistan freedom movement and Kurdish people will exercise their rights to retaliate, and will be obliged to make decisions against the interests of the French state.” it said.

LONG-RUNNING CONFLICT

The conflict has cost Turkey dearly since the militants took up arms in 1984, both in human and economic terms. There is growing public pressure on Erdogan to bring an end to the bloodshed.

Erdogan on Sept. 27 accused France and Germany of not doing enough to combat the PKK saying they were allowing terrorist leaders to travel freely across Europe.

He has said Turkey will halt its operations against the militants once they lay down arms.

Turkish intelligence officials have had contacts with senior PKK figures in Europe in recent years to try to end a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives but talks broke down.

According to Turkish media, Uzun was part of those talks. He was due to attend a conference on Saturday looking at the future of Kurds in Syria to be held at the French parliament with prominent Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian Kurds.

Turkish analysts suspect Assad of allowing a Syrian Kurdish movement believed to be linked to the PKK, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), to take control in parts of northern Syria to stop locals from joining the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Assad has denied allowing the PKK to operate on Syrian soil and the PYD denies any association with the PKK.

A strong PKK presence in Syria, where Kurds make up about one million of the 21 million population, could also complicate efforts to solve Turkey’s Kurdish problem.

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