Sixteen kidnapped Turkish workers released in Iraq

Sixteen kidnapped Turkish workers released in Iraq

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Sixteen kidnapped Turkish workers released in Iraq

AA photo

Sixteen Turkish workers who were being held captive by Shiite militias in Iraq have been released, Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad Faruk Kaymakçı has said. 

“We took the workers 55-60 kilometers south of Baghdad on Karbala road in the morning and we are on the way back to the embassy right now,” Ambassador Kaymakçı told the Hürriyet Daily News on Sept. 30. 

He said 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 added.

The group has given each worker a Quran, $200 in envelopes and clean clothes, the ambassador also said. 

The Iraqi authorities wanted to take statements of Turkish citizens in a police station, but embassy officials convinced them to take the statements at the embassy compound, Kaymakçı stated, welcoming the efforts of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his establishment of a special commission for the case that worked closely with the Turkish authorities. 

Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Numan Kurtulmuş claimed that the Turkish authorities had information about the whereabouts and circumstances of the workers from the first day of their kidnapping.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced the release via his Twitter account. “Turkey’s Iraqi ambassador has just received our 16 workers that were captured in Baghdad. I have talked to some of our workers on the phone,” he stated.

The state aircraft “Ana,” carrying  Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi and Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoüğlu, was sent to take the workers from Iraq and was expected to arrive in Turkey late on Sept. 30 after the Hürriyet Daily News went to press. 
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. 

Video claims Turkey has met demands

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.

Demands also included the blocking of armed people crossing into Iraq from Turkey and the allowance of necessary aid to reach the Shiite regions of Aleppo and Idlib.

Two of the kidnapped workers were subsequently released two weeks ago. 

The release of the 16 Turkish workers came after the group released a videotape on Sept. 28 saying Ankara had met their demands. Turkey ordered the al-Fat’h militia, a Sunni militia in Syria, to ease the siege of two Shiite towns in northern Syria and opened a safe passage for “10,000 innocent women, children, elderly and sick people” trapped there, the statement said, according to Xinhua news agency.

Dozens of Turks have been kidnapped but later released in Iraq in the past 18 months by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group, which overran large parts of the country last year.