BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Two of the 18 Turkish workers kidnapped in Baghdad this month have been released near the southern oil city of Basra, the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad said on Wednesday.
“They are in good health. They are saying the other 16 are also in good health,” Faruk Kaymakci told Reuters.
The Turkish workers appeared in a video days after their abduction, apparently held by an armed group that used a familiar Shi’ite Muslim slogan and threatened to attack Turkish interests in Iraq if its demands were not met.
It is not clear if the gunmen belong to an established group. Baghdad has struggled to rein in Shi’ite militias, many of which fought the U.S. occupation and are now seen as a critical weapon against the Sunnin Muslim militants of Islamic State.
The capital has also seen a proliferation in recent years of well-armed criminal gangs carrying out contract killings, kidnappings and extortion.
Turkish media identified the freed men as Necdet Yilmaz and Ercan Ozpilavci, but Reuters could not immediately confirm their identities.
Local officials confirmed the men’s release. Basra police spokesman Colonel Kareem al-Zaidi said they had been freed late on Tuesday. Provincial council member Jaber al-Saedi said they had been found in front of a hospital being built by a Turkish company.
Reporting Aref Mohammed in Basra, Stephen Kalin and Saif Hameed in Baghdad; Editing by Kevin Liffey