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32 Turkish truck drivers freed in Iraq

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Islamic militants released 32 Turkish truck drivers Thursday who they captured during a lightning offensive across northern and western Iraq last month, Turkey’s foreign minister said.

Ahmet Davutoglu said the truck drivers were heading toward the city of Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and would be flown to Ankara in the evening. He said the drivers were well but that one of them may need to undergo a special treatment. He did not elaborate, nor did he provide any details on the circumstances of their release

Militants from the extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized the truck drivers in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 9. Three days later, they took another 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul.

Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Davutoglu said efforts were underway to secure the release of the Turks still in captivity.

“The critical process continues,” he said. “Our prayers and our efforts will go on for the rest of them and God willing, we will share such good news about them too as soon as possible.”

Frazer reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press reporter Mehmet Guzel in Istanbul contributed to this report.

32 Turkish truck drivers freed in Iraq

KDWN

BAGHDAD (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister has confirmed that 32 truck drivers captured in Iraq last month have been released.

Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday the truck drivers were heading toward the city of Irbil, in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and would be flown to Ankara in the evening.

Militants from the extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized the truck drivers in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 9.

The insurgents seized another 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul three days later. There was no immediate word on whether they would be released as well.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Islamic militants have released at least 30 Turkish truck drivers who they captured in Iraq last month, relatives and a private Turkish news agency said Thursday.

Militants from the al-Qaida-inspired group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized the truck drivers on June 9 in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Nihal Simsek, the wife of one driver and the mother of another, told The Associated Press on Thursday that she had spoken to her husband, Ramazan Simsek, who confirmed the truck drivers were freed.

She said the drivers were heading toward Irbil in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region and would cross into Turkey in the evening.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said there were “positive developments” concerning the truck drivers but would not confirm the report by the Dogan news agency until it was certain all of the drivers were free and safe. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

The exact number of kidnapped drivers was unclear. The Dogan report cited 32, while Turkish officials at the time said the kidnapping involved 31 truck drivers.

The militants also seized 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul three days later. There was no immediate word on any release for them.

The group known as ISIL or ISIS has recently overrun parts of Iraq and Syria.

“ISIL has released our drivers, but our trucks are still in their hands,” the Dogan news agency quoted truck company owner, Mehmet Kizil, as saying. “But that doesn’t matter as long as they safely return to their families.”

Frazer reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press reporter Mehmet Guzel in Istanbul contributed to this report.