January 5, 2015 / 7:13 PM / in 3 years

Turkish soldier held in Syria is brought home: PM

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish intelligence has brought home a soldier who had been held in neighboring Syria after he chased smugglers across the border, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday.

The soldier went missing in Kilis province on Jan. 1, along the porous frontier with war-torn Syria, where Turkish authorities are struggling to cope with an influx of refugees and stem the flow of illicit trade and fighters.

“We have just brought back our soldier, who was held while he was on duty against the smugglers,” Davutoglu tweeted, adding that the operation had been carried out by MIT, the Turkish intelligence agency.

Local media had reported that the unnamed soldier was being held by Islamic State militants, but on Monday the army said it could not confirm the identity of his captors.

Last June, 46 Turkish nationals including senior diplomats were seized by Islamic State in the Iraqi city of Mosul, sparking months of effort to secure their release.

They were eventually freed unharmed in September. Details of the negotiations were not made public.

Turkey has repeatedly said it has stepped up security along the 900-km (560-mile) frontier with Syria, much of which abuts territory held by Islamic State, after accusations from Western partners that it has done too little to stem the rise of Islamist groups in Syria.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Jonny Hogg; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Kevin Liffey

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