16 Turkish workers kidnapped in Iraq freed

Ankara/Baghdad, Sept 30

Sixteen Turkish workers abducted by armed militants in Iraq have been released and are with embassy officials, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on his Twitter account today.

The men were snatched on September 2 from a stadium they were building on the outskirts of Baghdad, apparently by an armed group that used a familiar Shi’ite Muslim slogan and threatened to attack Turkish interests in Iraq if its demands were not met.

They are expected to return to Turkey on Wednesday or Thursday after a debriefing, said Ugur Dogan, the chief executive of the men’s employer Nurol Holding.

The men had appeared in an online video on Tuesday that promised their release after the United Nations backed a deal to extricate Syrian villagers under siege from rebels supported by Turkey.

“Our abducted 16 workers have just been received by our Baghdad embassy. I have spoken to some of them

over phone. Thankfully, they are in good health and are preparing to return (home) in the shortest possible time,” Davutoglu said in a series of tweets.

“I thank from my heart our Iraqi friends who showed intensive efforts for our workers,” he wrote.

Asked about the terms of the release, Faruk Kaymakci, the Turkish ambassador to Iraq, said none were discussed.

“Their health conditions are OK. They have no problem or anything,” Kaymakci told Reuters.

Baghdad has struggled to rein in Shi’ite armed groups, seen as a critical deterrent against Islamic State militants who control large swathes of the north and west. The city has also seen a proliferation in recent years of well-armed criminal gangs carrying out contract killings.