Eighty Turks still captive in northern Iraq, as ISIL vows not to harm hostages
Dinçer GÖKÇE - İpek YEZDANİ
An image grab taken from a propaganda video uploaded on June 8, 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) allegedly shows ISIL militants driving in vehicles near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit. AFP PHOTO / HO / ISIL"One of the 31 Turkish truck drivers taken hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after militants seized the northern Iraqi city of Mosul has refuted reports suggesting that they were released June 12, while jihadists again stressed that the captives will not be harmed.
“They’re still holding us here on a mountain in the middle of a desert with no water and no bread. We’re in a miserable situation. They told us they would execute us today if our companies don’t pay the ransom money,” one of the drivers told daily Hürriyet at 2 p.m. local time on June 12 on the phone.
“Our lives are in danger here. Can’t companies of ours pay this ransom money?” the driver said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Earlier, it was reported that Turkey-based companies had engaged in negotiations in which ISIL demanded $5,000,000.
“There are reports in the media about our citizens being released, but we can’t confirm these reports at this stage,” a Turkish official told Reuters. “We have been holding negotiations since yesterday to secure our citizens and these negotiations are still ongoing.”
The head of the truck drivers’ association UND, Çetin Nuhoğlu, also denied the reports that he announced that the Turkish drivers were freed. “Eight drivers were released [by the ISIL] in the morning, but another group has taken them hostage,” he said.
Fatih Şener, an executive of the UND, said the second group that took eight Turkish drivers hostage consisted of residents of Mosul villages around the thermal power plant where the hostages are held. “Ransom negotiations are still ongoing through the Turkish drivers’ cellphones,” Şener added.
Turkey's main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the 49 members of the Mosul consulate who were taken hostage are “in good condition,” after speaking with the wife of Consul General Öztürk Yılmaz.
“I spoke with the wife of the consul general. She said there weren’t any problems. We are closely monitoring their situation,” the CHP leader told reporters on June 12.
Meanwhile, an ISIL spokesman told the Kurdish news website Rudaw that the group would not harm the Turkish hostages. “We are providing security for the diplomats. They will return their country. There is no reason to fear, because they belong to the Hanafi school of the Sunni branch of Islam,” he said.
The hostages include children of diplomats and security personnel living at the facility.
Hüseyin Çelik, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), also denied that the hostages were freed, following a statement by the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) co-chair Ertuğrul Kürkçü.
“The reports are not true. Contacts and talks for their release are going very well. The health of our citizens who were taken hostage is quite good and we’re following the issue,” Çelik said.
Minutes before Çelik’s statement, HDP co-chair Kürkçü had claimed that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had told him that some hostages were freed. “Davutoğlu told us that they learned that those [49 Turks] in the consulate had been transferred to another place as negotiations were continuing, while [31 Turkish] drivers were freed,” Kürkçü had said.
Earlier on June 12, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said the Turkish government was not working on any new mandate to authorize a cross-border military operation into Iraq following the seizure of the 80 Turks by the jihadi fighters.