Turkish military detains 8 freed soldiers-sources

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ISTANBUL, Nov 11 (Reuters) Eight Turkish soldiers freed last week by Kurdish rebels have been charged by the military with disobeying orders in a way that could have led to ''catastrophe,'' a defence lawyer said today.

The capture of the soldiers in October intensified a stand-off between the Turkish military and the separatist rebels and nearly led to a Turkish cross-border operation into northern Iraq, which some 3,000 of the Kurdish rebels use as a base.

''The soldiers have been charged with disobeying orders in a manner facilitating catastrophe,'' a lawyer for the soldier's defence said.

He did not say what orders the soldiers, now under detention, were accused of disobeying in connection with their captivity or clarify the reference to ''catastrophe''.

Ankara has threatened an incursion into northern Iraq to root out Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels who use mountains there as a base for attacks inside Turkey.

The soldiers have faced criticism at home since their return and have been accused by some of aiding PKK propaganda.

The release of the soldiers last week, before Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with US President George W Bush, was seen internationally as a move to reduce tensions between the rebels and the Turkish military.

Three parliamentarians of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party who travelled to northern Iraq to participate in a ceremony with representatives of the northern Iraqi government to free the soldiers are under investigation.

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 since the guerrilla group took up arms in 1984 to carve out an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey.

The Turkish military still has approximately 100,000 troops stationed on its border with Iraq.

Reuters SBA VP0145

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