Indian and Turkish groups freed in Iraq conflict

Friday 04 July 2014 23.04
Kurdish Peshmerga forces man a checkpoint on the road leading from Kirkuk to northern Iraqi city of Tikrit
Kurdish Peshmerga forces man a checkpoint on the road leading from Kirkuk to northern Iraqi city of Tikrit

A group of 46 Indian nurses and a group of 32 Turkish truck drivers, both of whom were trapped in the Iraqi conflict, have been freed and are making their way to the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil.

An Indian diplomat said that a team of Indian government officials were waiting for the nurses in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region and that arrangements were being made to fly them home to India.

He said the group was separate from another 39 Indian workers being held in Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city.

It was the first to fall in a jihadist-led offensive that has overrun swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad.

The truck drivers, who were held hostage for three weeks by Islamic militants in Iraq, have meanwhile been handed over to consular staff, Turkey’s foreign minister has said.

They had been kidnapped by militants from the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Ahmet Davutogly told reporters in Ankara last night that a plane had taken off from Istanbul to fly the Turkish citizens from Arbil to Ankara.

He also said he had spoken with one of the drivers and said they were unharmed.

Militants storming the Turkish consulate in Mosul had also kidnapped 49 other Turks, including the consul, staff members, guards and three children.

There was no information regarding their whereabouts.

The kidnappings sparked intense concern in Ankara over the rise of radical Islamist groups across the border in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey, which backs the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has repeatedly denied accusations that it is itself to blame for the rise of the Islamist rebellion in Syria and Iraq.

A Turkish court last month imposed a controversial blackout on media coverage of the kidnapping of the Turks, after Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan said the reports were “risking the lives of our people”.