Turkish workers who were kidnapped in Iraq on Sept. 2 have been claimed on Monday to have been released in recent video footage posted on social media by the Shiite group responsible for the act.
However, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has not yet confirmed the claim and is investigating the incident.
In the meantime, two of the 18 Turkish workers were released earlier in Basra and arrived in Istanbul on Sept. 17.
The released workers appeared to be in good health and said the other workers were also in good health.
Eighteen Turkish citizens who were construction workers and engineers for the Turkish corporation Nurol Holding in charge of building a sports complex in the Baghdad were kidnapped in the Shiite district of Habibiya in the Iraqi capital.
The Iraqi Shiite militia Furaq al Mawt (Death Squad) announced in video footage released on Sept. 11 that it was responsible for kidnapping several Turkish workers and threatened the Turkish government that it would kill the country's abducted citizens if its conditions are not met.
The video footage said that the Shiite militia could release the Turkish citizens but “[President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan must fulfill the following requirements.”
First, Turkey should 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 which 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 the villages of Foa, Kafreyya, Nubbul, and Zahra close to the Lebanese border.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi previously called the abductors "the corrupt owners of organised crime,” and said they would receive swift punishment once they are captured.
Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, also condemned the abduction "We demand the release of the abductees and an end to these practices which harm the image of Islam," in a statement released by the office of Sistani, whose opinion carries sway with millions of Shiite Muslim followers in Iraq and beyond.