Turkish construction workers kidnapped in Iraq earlier this month have been released, Iraq and Turkey said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said 16 workers were released.
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 men, kidnapped on September 2 from a stadium they were building on the outskirts of Baghdad, are expected to return to Turkey on Wednesday or Thursday after a debriefing, the chief executive of Nurol Holding, their employer, said on Wednesday.
Kaymakci had accompanied the released workers in a auto from southern Iraq’s Basra region to the Turkish embassy in Baghdad. “I talked to a few of them on the phone”. Two of them were released on September 16.
Davutoglu thanked “Iraqi friends” who had worked toward the men’s release, without elaborating. In June 2014, militants from the terrorist group Islamic State took 49 employees of the Turkish consulate in Mosul in northern Iraq hostage.
Iraqi Sunnis accuse Shiite paramilitaries of abuses.
Originally, 18 workers were abducted from the site of a new sports complex in Baghdad, but two of them have already been freed.
The release seemed created to project political might and rule out any suggestion that the kidnappings were perpetrated by a purely criminal extortionist organisation.
“They were moved to four different locations but always in the Baghdad area”, Kaymakci said.
Turkey’s second largest trading partner is Iraq, where Turkish construction and contracting companies play a leading role.