Turkey in Talks to Free Citizens Kidnapped in Iraq

Thursday, 12 Jun 2014 02:55 PM

 

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Turkey said Thursday it is holding talks to secure the release of dozens of its citizens kidnapped by Islamist militants sweeping through northern Iraq.

"We are in touch with all the groups in Iraq including Kurds and Turkmens," a government official told Agence France-Presse, without giving further details.

"We have stepped up our diplomatic initiative for the release of the kidnapped citizens."

Militants from the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant abducted 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, including the head of the mission, on Wednesday.

They also seized 31 Turkish truck drivers from a power station in the city on Tuesday, drawing a promise of harsh reprisals from Ankara if any are harmed.

As Turkey urged any citizens still in the country to "leave Iraq as soon as possible", Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the government was working to ensure the release of those taken hostage.

While refusing to give details, he said those abducted are in a "safer zone".

"The safety of each citizen is vital to us," he told reporters. "Our prayers are with them... We will make efforts to hopefully receive good news soon."

With the security situation in northern Iraq deteriorating, Turkey has advised its citizens against "any travel" to the country.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has demanded the immediate release of the Turkish hostages, labelling the kidnappings a "criminal act."

Visiting Ankara, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, condemned the abductions and warned that terrorists pose a "clear security threat to Iraq and a growing threat to the region".

During a phone call with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Washington "is prepared to support Turkey's efforts to bring about the safe return of its citizens".

U.S. President Barack Obama has said his security team is "looking at all the options" to save Iraq's security forces from collapse, but Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, denied that the government was seeking a mandate from parliament to launch a military mission to rescue the hostages.

 

© AFP 2014

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