Kurds say seized tourist couple will not be harmed: Cyclists who went missing in Turkey were taken by separatist guerrillas 'for their own safety'

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The Independent Online
A BRITISH engineer and his Australian cousin being held by Kurdish rebels in Turkey will come to no harm, a spokesman for the Kurdish community in Britain said yesterday.

'There is no question whatsoever of them being hurt. They were taken for their own safety,' Zinar Hogir, of the Kurdish Information Service in London, said.

Mr Hogir was speaking after it was confirmed that David Rowbottom, 27, and Tania Miller, 28, a nurse, were being held by Kurdish separatist guerrillas.

The couple, who were cycling through Turkey en route to Australia, disappeared last week after setting out to explore to a spectacular crater lake on Mount Nemrut near the eastern town of Tatvan.

The rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, confirmed in a statement to the Kurdish news agency KURD-HA that it was holding the pair.

Mr Hogir denied that the PKK kidnapped the couple. He said the PKK's military wing, the ARGK, picked them up to prevent them being injured by bombing attacks by the Turkish army, which is locked in a bloody struggle with Kurdish separatist guerrillas in the region.

'They haven't been kidnapped. They were taken away for their own safety. There is a lot of bombing. It's not safe to be in the area,' he said.

This contradicts the report from KURD-HA which said the two were held because they were travelling in the region without PKK permission.

Mr Hogir said the PKK would free Mr Rowbottom, from Heaton Moor near Stockport, Greater Manchester, and Miss Miller, of Brisbane, as soon as it was safe to do so.

But he predicted that the PKK would insist on freeing them in the presence of the press or some independent body because of fears that they might be killed by Turkish authorities, who would then blame the deaths on the Kurds.

The Foreign Office and the Association of British Travel Agents renewed warnings about travelling to Turkish trouble spots where Kurdish rebels are locked in a bloody struggle for independence with the army. The south east of Turkey and the region around Tatvan should be avoided.

(Photograph omitted)