16 Turkish workers kidnapped in Iraq are released

AP News
|
Posted: Sep 30, 2015 10:02 AM
16 Turkish workers kidnapped in Iraq are released

BAGHDAD (AP) — Sixteen Turkish workers kidnapped from a construction site in Baghdad and held for nearly a month were released on Wednesday, Turkey's prime minister and Iraqi officials said.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said through his Twitter account that the workers were handed over to the Turkish ambassador in Iraq and that they were all in good health. He did not provide information on the circumstances of the release.

In Baghdad, the spokesman for the city's military command, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan confirmed the release and said the Turkish workers were now inside the Turkish Embassy.

The men, employed by Turkish construction company Nurol Insaat, were part of a group of 18 Turkish workers snatched in Baghdad's Shiite-dominated Sadr City on Sept. 2. After their abduction, a video from a previously unknown militant group showed the hostages and demanded that Turkey halt the flow of militants into Iraq, stop the passage of oil from Iraq's northern Kurdish region via Turkish territory and lift what was described as a "siege" on Syrian cities.

The brazen abduction laid bare serious security gaps in the heavily guarded Iraqi capital. Two of the workers were released later in September in the southern Shiite city of Basra.

Davutoglu thanked "Iraqi friends" who had worked toward the men's release, without elaborating. "Preparations are underway to ensure their return home as soon as possible," he said.

Maan told The Associated Press that the 16 workers were found Wednesday in the town of Musayyib, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Baghdad.

Turkish Ambassador Faruk Keymakci thanked Iraqi authorities and Shiite clerics who called for the release of the hostages. With the 16 freed hostages alongside him, Keymakci told reporters in Baghdad on Wednesday that the incident "will not weaken bilateral relations...and Turkish investments in Iraq."

An Iraqi national was kidnapped along with the Turks. Gunmen stormed the site on Sept. 2 as the workers were sleeping in caravans, breaking down doors and disarming the guards before taking the workers away.

Baghdad has been torn by violence for over a decade now, with roadside bombs, suicide attacks and assassinations occurring almost daily. While kidnapping for ransom has continued, large-scale abductions have been almost unheard of in the past few years.

Iraq's most recent turmoil has stemmed from the emergence of the Islamic State group, Sunni extremists who blitzed across the country to seize a third of Iraq's territory last summer.

___

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

___

This story has been corrected to show that 16 Turkish workers were released Wednesday, not 18.