By Humeyra Pamuk
Turkey is negotiating for the release of 80 nationals held by Islamist militants in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and cannot confirm reports that some of them have been freed, government officials said on Thursday.
“There are reports in the media about our citizens being released but we can’t confirm these reports at this stage,” a Turkish official said. “We have been holding negotiations since yesterday to secure our citizens and these negotiations are still ongoing.”
The pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported that the hostages, who include diplomatic staff, children and special forces soldiers, had been released to the Iraqi governor of Mosul and would be brought to Turkey later on Thursday.
Cetin Nuhoglu, chairman of Turkey’s International Transport Association, told Reuters that 31 of the hostages – a group of truck drivers being held at a power station – had been freed but were apparently trapped at the site because of poor security in Mosul following its capture by the militants.
Earlier on Thursday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on said the Turkish government was not working on any new mandate to authorise a cross-border military operation into Iraq following the seizure of the 80 Turks by the jihadi fighters.
A parliamentary mandate allowing Turkey to conduct cross-border military operations in Iraq expires in October. It was drafted to enable Ankara to strike at bases of Kurdish PKK militants sheltering in the north of Iraq.