ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday 49 hostages seized by Islamic State militants in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in June have been brought safely back to Turkey by the country’s intelligence agency.
The hostages, including Turkish diplomats, soldiers and children, were seized from Turkey’s consulate-general in June.
Davutoglu said they were being brought to the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa and that he would travel back from Azerbaijan, where he is on an official visit, to meet them.
“Today at 5 a.m. we brought our citizens who were detained in Iraq to our country. From my heart, I thank the families who maintained their dignity,” Davutoglu said on his Twitter account. He also thanked Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency.
The seizure of the hostages had left Turkey, a member of the NATO military alliance and a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, hamstrung in its response to the threat from Islamic State fighters over its southern borders in Iraq and Syria.
The United States is drawing up plans for military action in Syria against Islamic State fighters but Turkey had made clear it did not want to take a frontline role, partly because of fears for the fate of the hostages.