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11 held in Italy over alleged PKK training camps

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Italy terror arrests
  • Police found training camps in Italy and France; suspects arrested in Venice
  • 11 arrested on suspicion of having terrorism ties to the outlawed PKK
  • PKK has waged decades-old separatist campaign in southeastern Turkey

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- Police arrested 11 people in central and northern Italy on Friday on suspicion of recruiting Kurds to join the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK -- the outlawed separatist group fighting for a homeland in southeastern Turkey.

Of those arrested, 10 are Kurdish -- mostly from Turkey -- and one is an Italian with a criminal record, Italian authorities said. Searches related to 16 others are under way, according to police.

This comes as a two-year investigation led to the dismantling of three camps in Italy and one in France to train recruits for the PKK. The camps in Italy were old, isolated farm houses.

In one camp, authorities found 70 people being indoctrinated into the PKK. An investigation into their identifications is ongoing.

The Kurds are Turkey's largest ethnic minority, numbering more then 12 million people. For many years, the Turkish state denied their existence, calling them "mountain Turks."

The PKK has been locked in a bloody conflict with Turkey since the 1980s, and more than 30,000 people, mostly ethnic Kurds, have been killed in the conflict.

Full coverage in Turkish: CNN Turk

The international community, including the United States and the European Union, considers the PKK a terrorist organization.

The rebel group continues to operate in Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, and the Turkish military has in the past bombed PKK targets around Iraq's border with Turkey.

CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.