Two Turkish hostages released in Iraq’s Basra

Turkish ambassador in Iraq says two of 18 kidnapped Turkish workers released in Basra on Wednesday

Photo by: Social Media
Photo by: Social Media

Screenshot from the video released by Shiite militias, showing the kidnapped Turkish workers

Two of the 18 Turkish workers kidnapped in Baghdad's Shiite district of Habibiya were released on Wednesday in Iraq’s Basra. Turkish ambassador in Iraq, Faruk Kaymakci confirmed the release, along with various security sources.

The released workers appear to be in good health, according to Reuters. Turkish media identified the freed men as Necdet Yilmaz and Ercan Ozpilavci.

Shiite militants in Iraq called ‘Furaq al Mawt’, have declared responsibility for the kidnappings via a video posted online on Sept. 11, and said the Turkish government should comply to a number of requests in order for the workers to be released safely.

"They are in good health. They are saying the other 16 are also in good health," Kaymakci told Reuters.

Basra police spokesman, Colonel Kareem al Zaidi said the hostages were freed late on Tuesday and found in front of a hospital being built by a Turkish company.

The kidnapping demands

The Turkish workers were kidnapped on Sept. 2, they were construction workers and engineers working for Turkish Nurol Holding, which is in charge of building a sports complex in the eastern Baghdad district of Sadr City.

The demands of the Shiite militia started with urging “[President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to prevent armed militants from crossing from the country into Iraq”, the footage said.

Second, the footage demanded “Turkey should stop carrying stolen oil from Kurdistan,” referring to the actions of the Kurdish administration in Northern Iraq, led by Masoud Barzani with whom Turkey has strong political and economic relations.

The Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government has had many disagreements with the central Baghdad government, the selling of oil abroad being the most prominent, and Turkey is one of the region's best partners in the oil trade.

Third, the group accused Turkey of having "militias" in Syria and demanded their withdrawal from Foa, Kafreyya, Nubbul, and Zahra villages close to the Lebanese border, where the Fatah Army is currently clashing with Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, according to media reports.

The Shiite militia accuses the Turkish government of supporting the encirclement of the areas by the Fatah Army.

Furaq al Mawt also demanded the Turkish government “order” the Fatah Army and other groups to allow humanitarian aid to reach the Shiite areas in Syria's Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

The Shiite groups claim that the Fatah Army has been preventing residents from receiving aid in the aforementioned areas. The groups also claim that the Fatah Army has been a direct proxy of the Turkish government.

“If Erdogan and his party do not meet with these demands, Turkish interests and spies in Iraq will be crushed in the most possible worst way,” group stated.

Abadi and Sistani condemn the incident

Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al Abadi called the abductors "the corrupt owners of organised crime,” and said they would receive a swift punishment once they are captured.

Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned the abduction "We demand the release of the abductees and an end to these practices which harm the image of Islam," read a statement from the office of Sistani, whose opinion carries sway with millions of Shiite Muslim followers in Iraq and beyond.

Sistani has pushed Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite in recent weeks to reform the governing system wracked with corruption and mismanagement, which has deprived Iraqis of basic services and undermined government forces fighting ISIS.


TRTWorld and agencies