16 Turkish workers held in Baghdad return to Turkey

16 Turkish workers held in Baghdad return to Turkey

16 Turkish workers held in Baghdad return to Turkey

AA Photo

Sixteen Turkish workers who were held captive by Shiite militias earlier this month in the Iraqi capital Baghdad have arrived in the Turkish capital late Sept. 30 after their release earlier in the day.

A plane carrying the 16 workers landed at the Esenboğa International Airport in Ankara, with Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi, Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu and Presidency Secretary-General Fahri Kasırga also onboard. 

The workers and their families were later hosted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential palace, after which Erdoğan tweeted about their meeting.

“I express my goodwill wishes to our worker brothers, who have been emancipated, their families and our nation. I thank all the authorities who have contributed to the return of our workers safe and sound,” read a part of Erdoğan’s post on Twitter. 

Eighteen employees of major Turkish construction firm Nurol İnşaat were kidnapped on Sept. 2 by a Shiite militia group in the Sadr City area of north Baghdad, where they were working on a football stadium project. Two of the workers, Necdet Yılmaz and Ercan Özpilavcı, were released Sept. 17.

According to a source at the Turkish Presidency, Erdogan gave instructions to bring the 16 freed Turkish workers back to Turkey aboard his own private plane “ANA,” state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad Faruk Kaymakçı had told Hürriyet Daily News Sept. 30 that they received a phone call from the workers following their release. 

“We told them to wait on the road. Their state of health is good. They said they were not treated badly,” Kaymakçı said.

The group gave each worker a Quran, $200 in an envelope and clean clothes, the ambassador also said.

In the days after the kidnapping, an unknown militant group claimed responsibility for the kidnappings in a video posted online and issued a list of demands that it said Ankara must fulfill for them to be freed. 

The group, calling itself the “Death Squads,” demanded a halt to Kurdish oil exports via Turkish soil, the lifting of the sieges on Fua’a and Kafrayya by the militant group Jaish al-Fatah (The Army of Conquest), and the retreat of Turkish troops from Iraq, in a video prepared with special production for propaganda purposes.

The release of the 16 Turkish workers came after the group released a videotape on Sept. 28 saying Ankara had met their demands.