Turkish security forces have recaptured all but one of 18 escaped prisoners detained for suspected links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the interior minister said Thursday.
“Seventeen of the escapees have been apprehended. Security forces are looking for the last one,” Muammer Guler said on his official Twitter account.
The minister said they had been seized in the countryside in the province of Bingol, not far from where they had staged a spectacular escape by tunneling their way out of prison.
Four of the fugitives had already been convicted and the remainder were being held, charged with “membership of a terrorist organization,” the justice ministry said on Wednesday after the escape.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms in the Kurdish-majority southeast of Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.
Turkey has recently entered into a peace process with the Kurdish rebel movement after months of clandestine negotiations between the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan and the Turkish secret service.
Ocalan declared a truce in March.
But the process has been fragile and Kurdish rebels announced this month they had halted their pullout from Turkey, accusing the government of failing to deliver on the promised reforms to enhance the rights of the estimated 15 million Kurds in the country.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) is putting the final touches on a long awaited “democratization package” of reforms which will be unveiled on Sept. 30.
Turkey recaptures most escaped ‘Kurd rebel’ prisoners