Turkish diplomat says air strikes against ISIL almost killed hostages
Freed Turkish Consul General to Mosul Öztürk Yılmaz related part of his experiences as an ISIL hostage to NTV late on Sept 20.Turkey's consul general in Mosul, who spent 101 days in captivity at the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants, has said the recent air strikes in northern Iraq killed two jihadists who were guarding the building where the Turkish hostages were held.
"The area where we were kept and the road that our vehicle used were bombed. Some air strikes hit very close. There were people among us who were injured when windows shattered. Still, without the U.S. bombing, perhaps we wouldn't have been able to survive," Consul General Öztürk Yılmaz said Sept. 20 during a live interview with Turkish broadcaster NTV.
Some 46 Turkish citizens and three Iraqi staff were kidnapped on June 11 by ISIL after the militants seized control of all of Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city. Turkey's hostages were freed earlier in the day following the Turkish National Intelligence Organization's (MİT) intense work and a secret operation.
Another hostage from the consulate told NTV that the bombing was continuous. "It hit us. I was trapped under debris. Glass was stuck in my head. They said two [militants] were killed outside," the unnamed man said.
The U.S. early last month began air strikes against ISIL positions in northern Iraq to stop the militant group's advance and to help the Iraqi army and air forces.
Yılmaz also confirmed that he resisted the group's demands by risking his life.
"They put a gun to my head and wanted to take photos in my room [for propaganda purposes]. I declined to unlock the room and told them that we would prefer to be killed rather than anything bad happen to the women, children and our flag," he said, while denying reports that the bruise on his face was the result of the gunpoint confrontation. "No, it was the result of something else."
He also said the militants forced them to watch propaganda videos to "make the hostages' morale collapse." Videos showing the beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were among those that the Turkish hostages were forced to watch, Yılmaz added.
"There wasn't any physical abuse, but there were always threats. They have a different culture. It's hard to learn about them immediately. I was only able to get to know them after spending a long time together. They can swear on Quran a hundred times and then still easily lie a hundred times," he stated.
ISIL changed the location of the hostages eight times, Yılmaz confirmed, stressing that the militants were trying to deceive the Turks by telling them that they had been transferred out of Mosul, although they actually never left the city.
Declining to reveal the details about their journey from Mosul to Turkey via Raqqa, ISIL's stronghold in Syria, Yılmaz said: "I consider it an honor if something bad happens to me because of my country. I've been working in Foreign Ministry for the past 19 years. Now I want to rest a few days with my family and then I'll get back to work again."