BAGHDAD: Masked men in military uniforms kidnapped 16 Turkish workers and engineers in Baghdad at dawn Wednesday, bundling them into several SUVs and speeding away, Iraqis security officials said.
They said the 16 are employed by a Turkish construction company contracted to build a sports complex in the sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City. The kidnappers stormed the construction site, where the workers were sleeping in caravans, and disarmed the guards before taking the workers away.
There were no reports of violence.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed that 16 Turkish nationals were kidnapped in Baghdad and said it was in constant contact with Iraqi authorities over the incident. It said that for security reasons it cannot reveal details on the workers or who employed them.
The Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Neither the identity nor the motives of the kidnappers were immediately known.
Turkey recently began launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group in northern Iraq and allowing U.S. warplanes to use bases in southeastern Turkey to strike the Sunni extremist group.
The style and scale of Wednesday’s kidnapping harkened back to the sectarian violence in Baghdad in 2006 and 2007, when Sunni and Shiite militants kidnapped followers of the other sect. In most cases, the bodies of those kidnapped were found a day or two later with marks of torture and a bullet wound to the head.
Baghdad has been beset by violence for over a decade now, with roadside bombs, suicide attacks and assassinations almost daily occurrences. While kidnapping for ransom has continued, abductions on the scale seen Wednesday have been almost unheard of in the past few years.