Iraq: kidnapped Turkish workers appear in video

Iraq: kidnapped Turkish workers appear in video
In a video suspected Shia militants say they will release Turks kidnapped earlier in Baghdad, days after a UN-backed deal ended a rebel siege on Shia villages in Syria.
3 min read
28 September, 2015
Thirty-two Turkish truck drivers were held hostage for three weeks in Iraq in 2014 [AFP]
Sixteen Turkish workers abducted in Baghdad earlier this month have appeared in an online video promising their release, days after a UN-backed deal to extricate Syrian villagers under siege from rebels supported by Ankara.

The men were kidnapped in early September from a stadium they were building on the outskirts of the capital Baghdad, near Sadr City, along with two others who were released earlier in the southern city of Basra.

The abductees had appeared in a video days after their capture, apparently held by an armed group that used a familiar Shia Muslim slogan and threatened to attack Turkish interests in Iraq if its demands were not met.

According to the previous video, released by the group on September 11, the Shia militants kidnapped the workers to pressure Ankara into changing Turkey's regional policy.

The Turkish workers were kidnapped
near the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City

The new video released late on Sunday showed the men sitting below the same slogan, clean-shaven and wearing T-shirts.

The video's authenticity could not be verified.

On-screen text said the captors had decided to release the Turks after civilians besieged by Sunni rebels in the Shia villages of Kefraya and al-Fuaa in northwestern Syria had been given safe passage.

That deal includes the withdrawal of rebel fighters held up in a mostly government-held area near Lebanon. It was reached in talks backed by Iran, which supports the Syrian government, and Turkey, which supports the rebels.

In the video, one of the Turks reads a statement in Arabic, saying the captors had treated them humanely.

"We hope on this holy day of Eid al-Adha that [Turkish President] Erdogan will not repeat [his actions] and will respect the innocent people of Iraq and Syria."

Eid al-Adha is an Islamic holiday which ended on Sunday.

The video closes with a warning against breaking promises. It makes no new demands and sets no timeline for the Turks' release.

Claims on social media and local press of their release have not been confirmed.

It is not clear which group is responsible for the kidnapping.

Baghdad has struggled to rein in Shia armed groups, seen as a critical deterrent against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) 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, kidnappings and extortion.

In June 2014, militants from IS took 49 employees of the Turkish consulate in Mosul in northern Iraq hostage. The hostages were released after three months in captivity.