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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Turkey wants Kurdish leader extradited after Prague arrest

Saleh Muslim is wanted over deadly bombing in Ankara in 2016

In this Sept. 1, 2016 file photo, then co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim addresses journalists at the European Parliament in Brussels. Geert Vanden Wijngaert /AP Photo
In this Sept. 1, 2016 file photo, then co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim addresses journalists at the European Parliament in Brussels. Geert Vanden Wijngaert /AP Photo

Turkey's government wants the Czech Republic to extradite a Syrian Kurdish leader detained on its orders this weekend so that he can face terror charges, a top official said on Sunday.

Saleh Muslim, the former co-chair of Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), is wanted over a February 2016 bombing in Ankara that killed 29 people. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which for over three decades has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state.

"Our wish is that he is extradited," Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said after the arrest in the Czech capital, noting that both Turkey and the Czech Republic were parties to the European Convention on Extradition.

He said that three Turkish offices of state - the foreign ministry, the interior ministry and the justice ministry -- would be working with the Czech authorities to bring this about.

Mr Bozdag confirmed that Mr Muslim had been detained earlier this weekend at a Prague hotel at Ankara's request, describing him as the "head of a terror group".

The Turkish justice ministry said in a statement that "efforts have started for the extradition (of Muslim) to Turkey".

It said that if he is remanded in custody by a Czech court, a formal extradition request will be sent to Prague in line with the European Convention on Extradition.

The arrest comes as Turkey presses a military operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia -- the military wing of the PYD -- in the western enclave of Afrin in northern Syria.

Turkey sees the YPG and PYD as the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is banned by Turkey, the United States and the European Union as a terror group.