Middle East

Kidnapped Turkish construction workers freed in Iraq

Entrance to a sports stadium under construction in Baghdad's Sadr City district (2 September 2015) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The workers were sleeping in caravans when the gunmen stormed the stadium complex on 2 September

Sixteen Turkish construction workers have been freed a month after they were kidnapped in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu has said.

He tweeted that they were currently at the Turkish embassy in Baghdad, were "in good health" and would be returning home "in the shortest possible time".

The workers were seized by gunmen on 2 September while they slept in caravans at the site of a stadium in Sadr City.

Iraq's military said they were found in Babylon province, south of Baghdad.

The workers appeared in a video days after their abduction, kneeling in front of five masked gunmen and a banner bearing a slogan used by Shia militias in Iraq. The gunmen threatened to attack Turkish interests if their demands were not met.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Two videos showing the Turkish workers were released after their abduction

On Sunday, a video was published saying the workers would be released because the Turkish government had enabled the safe passage of residents in two Shia villages in Syria besieged by Sunni-dominated rebel forces.

"Our abducted 16 workers have just been received by our Baghdad embassy. I have spoken to some of them by telephone. Thankfully, they are in good health and are preparing to return [home] in the shortest possible time," Mr Davutoglu wrote in a series of tweets on Wednesday.

"I thank from my heart our Iraqi friends who showed intensive efforts for our workers."

The kidnappers initially took 18 workers hostage, but released two of them near the southern oil city of Basra on 15 September.

Ugur Dogan, the chief executive of Nurol Holding, the Turkish company building the stadium in Sadr City, said the 16 others were expected to return to Turkey on Wednesday or Thursday after a debriefing.

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