Syrian Kurdish leader detained in Prague at Turkey’s request
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Syrian Kurdish leader detained in Prague at Turkey’s request

Czech police confirm arrest of Salih Muslim, the former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party, who had a $1 million bounty on his head

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. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)
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. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — Czech authorities detained a former leader of a Syrian Kurdish political party under an Interpol red notice that was based on Turkey’s request for his arrest, Turkey’s official news agency and a Kurdish official said Sunday.

Anadolu news agency said Salih Muslim, former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, was detained on Saturday in Prague.

A Kurdish official close to Muslim said the former PYD leader was in Prague attending a conference. After a Turkish participant took a photograph of him, Czech police detained the Syrian politician, following a request by Turkey.

Czech police say that have arrested and placed in detention a 67-year-old foreigner at the request of Turkey’s Interpol. No further details were immediately released by Czech police.

Muslim was put on Turkey’s most-wanted list earlier in February with a reward for $1 million.

Turkey considers the PYD a “terrorist group” linked to outlawed Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey’s own borders.

The party is the leading political Kurdish force in northern Syria, and Muslim remains highly influential even after stepping down as co-chair last year.

Turkish-backed fighters from the Free Syrian Army stand in the Tal Malid area, north of Aleppo, as they fire toward Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) positions in the village of Um al-Hosh, in the area of Afrin, on January 20, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / Nazeer al-Khatib)

The Kurdish official said the former PYD leader was invited to Prague to take part in a conference held once every six months to discuss issues linked to the Middle East such as the Syrian crisis, Turkey, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The official, who is also in Prague, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information about the conference.

Anadolu said Turkey is submitting an extradition request for Muslim. An extradition request would have be approved by a Czech court and by the justice minister. Muslim is a Syrian citizen.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched an incursion into northern Syria, seeking to rout the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, from the enclave of Afrin. The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD.

Turkey shares a 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria. The YPG controls much of the territory along the border.

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