Today in history: Turkey's most wanted man captured in Kenya

A police chase at Uhuru Highway led to the capture of Abdullah Öcalan

Abdullah Ocalan, the ringleader of the PKK terror group

Turkey is today marking 23 years since Abdullah Öcalan, the ringleader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) group, was apprehended in Kenya.

Hunted by authorities, Öcalan first escaped into Syria until Turkey threatened to invade if the Syrian president, Hafez Al-Assad did not extradite him.

Öcalan escaped to Italy then Russia and eventually landed in Greece, on January 29 1999. Greece’s intelligence service quickly organized to have Öcalan flown out to a transit country as they negotiated asylum in another country.

That transit point was Kenya. The rumors that Turkey’s most wanted man was in Kenya started flying around only a few hours after he arrived in Nairobi.

The Foreign Ministry, then headed by the late Bonaya Godana, summoned Greece’s ambassador, George Coustoulas, to answer for the presence of a terrorist on Kenyan soil.

The Greek Ambassador asked Öcalan to leave but he declined, instead submitting a written request for political asylum.

After Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) obtained information suggesting that Öcalan sought to move from Kenya to the Netherlands, it acted quickly, first renting a private jet belonging to a Turkish businessman.

The private jet was likened to the one Greece arranged for Öcalan and it left Turkey with two pilots and MIT personnel onboard. The intelligence personnel were referred to as banana tradesmen.

The jet, which was rented due to its physical similarities to the plane traveling from the Netherlands to Kenya, was given the route of Egypt and Uganda. The plane waited in Uganda for 10 days.

The Turkish jet landed at Nairobi Airport while the other private jet coming to transfer Öcalan to the Netherlands was still in the air.

Öcalan, who stayed at the Greek Embassy in Nairobi for a while, left the building with his bodyguards to leave the country for the Netherlands.

Police blocked the road connecting to the airport after Öcalan's vehicle passed the checkpoint. However, the remaining vehicles of Öcalan's convoy were directed to another road, and this helped the Turkish personnel gain time.

At JKIA, Öcalan entered the private jet which he thought was sent from the Netherlands for his transportation, but little did he know that the plane's final destination was Turkey.

Öcalan was handcuffed and blindfolded after getting onboard, and the first thing he heard was: "Abdullah Öcalan, welcome to the homeland."

The arrest ignited a series of violent attacks on Kenyan, Israeli, Turkish and Greek Embassies in Europe.

In a series of a coordinated attacks, the Kurdish protesters broke into embassies and consulates threatened to immolate themselves and their hostages.

Then 14 men and two women broke into the Kenyan Embassy in Paris and held several Kenyan diplomats hostage for three hours. Another group lay siege on the Kenyan Embassy in Bonn, Germany.

Abdullah Öcalan's kidnapping and extradition ended several careers. President Daniel Arap Moi sacked Frank Kwinga, the head of immigration and Duncan Wachira, the police commissioner, and also demoted Simeon Nyachae.

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