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Turkey Finds Bodies of Businessmen

January 19, 2000

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ Police recovered the bodies today of 10 businessmen who were believed kidnapped by an armed Islamic group, the Interior Minister said.

The victims were among a dozen businessmen reported missing last month after they allegedly left for meetings with members of the outlawed Hezbollah group. The Kurdish Hezbollah wants to form an Islamic state in southeastern Turkey. The group is not related to the Lebanese militia of the same name.

``Ten bodies, apparently of those killed by the terror organization (Hezbollah), were found in a house,″ Interior Minister Sadettin Tantan said.

Police found the bodies in a coal shed outside a house in Istanbul. The hands and legs of the men were tied and they had apparently been strangled with ropes.

Authorities searched the shed after questioning two Hezbollah militants captured Monday after a five-hour shootout in Istanbul. The group’s leader, Huseyin Velioglu, was killed in that gunbattle.

Police traced the militants to the safehouse after tracking transactions made with the missing businessmen’s credit cards, reports said.

Istanbul police chief Hasan Ozdemir refused comment on the reports.

Private NTV television showed aerial footage of police digging around the shed for more bodies.

The motive for the abductions and killings were not clear, but the businessmen were reportedly supporters of a rival pro-Islamic faction.

Authorities have recently intensified their crackdown against the group.

Hezbollah, which draws its support from religious, rural Kurds, is believed responsible for hundreds of killings and abductions. The group has largely limited its attacks to Kurds who oppose the organization, including members of the PKK.

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