Iraq raids Shiite militia HQ over kidnapping of Turkish workers
Turkish workers were on duty at a stadium construction near Baghdad's Sadr City.Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Sept. 4 spoke on the phone with his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi over the abduction of 18 Turkish workers in Baghdad on Sept. 2, as Iraqi security forces raided the Baghdad headquarters of a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia.
Sources from the Turkish Prime Ministry quoted Abadi as saying his government was doing everything to save the kidnapped workers, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.
Davutoğlu thanked his Iraqi counterpart for Iraqi security forces' efforts to save the workers, the sources said.
The workers "were there not just to earn their livelihood, but also to contribute to the reconstruction of the Iraqi economy and Iraq", Davutoğlu reportedly told Abadi.
Separately, a commission of three Turkish MPs established by the parliamentary group of the Republican Peoples' Party (CHP) visited Baghdad on Sept. 4 to monitor the rescue efforts and contribute to the ongoing operation.
"We will do our best for our brothers," lawmaker Ahmet Akın told journalists at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul before leaving. He added they would be meeting with company and Iraqi officials.
A total of 18 Turkish workers were kidnapped in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Sept. 2.
He said that they were employed with a Turkish construction company in Baghdad.
Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu said on Sept. 3 that the kidnapping was not the work of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“What we know is that it is not [the work of] one of the terrorist organizations we are familiar with; it is not Daesh [ISIL] or the PKK,” Sinirlioğlu told media at the Turkish parliament.
Iraq probes Shi'ite militia over kidnapping
Iraqi security forces investigating the abduction of 18 Turkish construction workers raided the Baghdad headquarters of a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia overnight, security sources and officials told Reuters on Sept. 4.
Gunmen in military uniform had seized the Turks on Sept. 2 from a sports stadium they were building in northeastern Baghdad, in what Ankara said appeared to have been a targeted kidnapping.
The militia, Kataib Hezbollah, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Baghdad has struggled to rein in Shiite armed groups, many of which fought the U.S. occupation and are now seen as a critical deterrent against the militants of ISIL, who have said they will march on the capital after seizing large swathes of the north and west in summer 2014.
The city has also seen a proliferation in recent years of well-armed criminal gangs carrying out contract killings, kidnappings and extortion.
Diplomats have said Turkey could suffer reprisals after abandoning months of reticence to launch air strikes against ISIL in neighbouring Syria and open its bases to a U.S.-led coalition fighting the Sunni Muslim militants.
Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, said security forces had come under fire on Sept. 3 night when they tried to raid a house on Palestine Street in Baghdad's eastern district of Mohandessen. Intelligence had indicated the presence there of a member of the group involved in the Turks' abduction, he said.
Hadithi would not confirm or deny that the suspect had been apprehended, and would not comment on his possible affiliation with Kataib or any other group.
No trace found
A spokesman for the Hashid Shaabi, a government body overseeing armed groups fighting Islamic State including Kataib, denied the militia had any connection to the missing Turks.
Karim al-Nuri said a "routine search" had escalated into a quarrel that left one soldier dead and two militia members wounded.
"The friction started due to accusations that the Turkish workers were kidnapped by Kataib. Following the security forces' search, this allegation was proven wrong," Nuri said.
A security source said the army was searching the headquarters and surrounding buildings in the predominantly Shi'ite neighbourhood, but had not yet found any trace of the Turkish hostages.