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Syria’s PYD ex-leader arrested in Prague on Turkey’s request

File photo shows Salih Muslim, a former co-leader of Syria's Kurdish group PYD.

A former leader of Syria’s Democratic Union Party, a major Kurdish group known as the PYD, has been arrested in the Czech capital on Turkey’s request.

Salih Muslim, a former co-chair of the PYD, was detained on Saturday in Prague under an Interpol red notice that was based on Turkey's request for his arrest.

Sources close to the PYD leadership said Muslim was attending a conference in Prague and authorities reportedly arrested him after a Turkish participant took a photograph of him. The source said Muslim went to the conference, which is held every six months to discuss the Middle East situation, based on an invitation from Czech authorities.

Czech police would not elaborate on details of the arrest and only said that a 67-year-old foreigner had been arrested at the request of Turkey's Interpol.

Turkey promised a reward of $1 million for Muslim’s arrest in early February when authorities placed the Kurdish politician on Ankara’s most-wanted list. Muslim still holds huge sway over the PYD even after his resignation from the party’s leadership. Turkey’s Anadolu news agency said a request was being prepared for extradition of Muslim from Czech Republic.

Turkey has fiercely opposed the rising clout of the Kurds in northern Syria, saying the expansion of territories under their control to the east of Euphrates could pose serious security threats to the Turkish borders. Turkey says the PYD and its militant wing, known as the YPG, is an arm of the PKK, an outlawed Kurdish militant group which has been waging a war on Turkish government for the past decades.

The Turkish military launched a massive military operation on January 20 to push back the Kurds from the city of Afrin in northwestern Syria. The operation has hardly reached its planned objectives while Turkish troops have suffered badly among their ranks.

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