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Two of 18 kidnapped Turkish workers freed in Iraq: Officials

The construction workers were kidnapped by unknown individuals on 2 September
Iraqis drive along a street in the capital Baghdad as a sand storm envelops the city (AFP)
Two of 18 Turkish workers kidnapped by gunmen in Baghdad this month have been freed in the southern city of Basra, Turkish and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday.

The men were among 18 employees of major Turkish construction firm Nurol Insaat kidnapped on 2 September in the Sadr City area of north Baghdad, where they were working on a football stadium project.

The Turkish ambassador to Iraq, Faruk Kaymakci, said that two workers had been released and were found near a Turkish company's premises in Basra.

"They are in good health," he told AFP. "They said the other 16 were also in good health as of yesterday (Tuesday)."

The Basra police issued a statement saying that the two men were found late on Tuesday, while the Turkish foreign ministry spokesman also confirmed their release.

"Two of our 18 fellow citizens abducted in Baghdad have been released. The two released workers are Necdet Yilmaz and Ercan Ozpilavci," spokesman Tanju Bilgic told the Dogan news agency.

An unknown militant group claimed the kidnappings in a video posted online last week and issued a list of demands it said Ankara must fulfil for them to be freed.

Dozens of Turks have been kidnapped but later released in Iraq in the past 18 months by the Islamic State militant group, which overran large parts of the country last year.

But Sadr City, where the 18 Turks were kidnapped, is a stronghold of Shia paramilitary forces opposed to the militants. 

No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Last year 46 Turkish citizens were captured by the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul following the fall of the city to the group in June.

They were later released and returned to Turkey following what Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called “intense efforts that lasted days and weeks”.

Turkey has earned IS’s wrath in recent weeks, with the group blasting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as “satan” in a video released in social media.