Gun battle for abducted Turkish workers in Iraq

Iraqi forces clashed with Shiite militia group based on intelligence over kidnapped Turkish workers in area

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An Iraqi soldier is seen standing guard in file photo.

Iraqi officials said on Friday that Iraqi security forces raided the Baghdad headquarters of a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia overnight upon the suspicions that the Turkish abductees were being held in the area. The armed clashes between the Iraqi soldiers and the militia resulted in three injured soldiers as well as the death of one soldier. 

The militia, Kataib Hezbollah, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Eightteen Turkish workers employed by a Turkish construction company in charge of building a sports complex in the eastern Baghdad district of Sadr City, were seized in the northeastern district of Habibiya early on Wednesday.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the Turkish nationals taken in Baghdad had been specifically picked by the attackers, without giving further details while the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that the Turkish authorities are in contact with their counterparts in Iraq and trying to find out who is behind the kidnapping.

Saad al Hadithi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, said that the security forces came under fire on Thursday night when they tried to raid a house on Palestine Street in the eastern district of Mohandessen and added that the intelligence had indicated the presence there of a member of the group involved in the Turks' kidnapping.

Hadithi would not confirm or deny if the suspect had been apprehended, and would not comment on his possible affiliation with Kataib or any other group.

A spokesman for the Hashid Shaabi, a government body overseeing armed groups fighting ISIS including Kataib, denied the militia had any connection to the missing Turks.

Karim al Nuri said that "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 that the army was searching the headquarters and surrounding buildings in the predominately Shiite neighbourhood, but had not found any traces of the Turkish hostages.

Baghdad operations command, which is responsible for security in the city, did not respond to requests for comment.

Baghdad has struggled to rein in Shiite armed groups, many of which fought the US occupation and are now seen as a critical deterrent against ISIS which has vowed to march on the capital after seizing large swathes of the north and west last summer.

The city has also seen a proliferation in recent years of well-armed criminal gangs involved in contract killings, kidnappings and extortion.

Diplomats have said that Turkey could suffer reprisals after abandoning months of reticence to launch air strikes against ISIS in neighbouring Syria and open its bases to a US-led coalition fighting the militants.


TRTWorld and agencies