Workers seized at construction site in Baghdad purportedly appear in footage
ISTANBUL – An online video emerged Friday that purportedly shows 18 Turkish nationals kidnapped on Sept. 2 in Iraq.
The group appeared kneeling in front of five black-clad, masked men holding guns. In the background a blue banner with black Arabic script spelt out the phrases “Death squads” and “Labbayk ya Hussein” — the latter referring to an operation launched by Iraqi government forces and backed by Shia Muslim militias.
The construction employees, who include three engineers and an accountant, recite their names and the names of their hometowns in the footage.
The video is subtitled to include a call for the Turkish government to meet the kidnappers’ demands to secure the release of the hostages.
The workers were abducted by men in military uniforms from the site of a Turkish construction company owned by Turkey-based Nurol Holding, in Sadr city, a Shia-majority Baghdad suburb.
Labbayk ya Hussein — which translates as “I am at your service, Hussein” — is a reference to the anti-Daesh offensive in Iraq’s western Anbar province and indicates the kidnappers belong to a Shia militant group.
Hussein was the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. He was killed at the Battle of Karbala and is especially revered by Shias, who commemorate his death every year.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it was making every effort to secure the men’s release. Spokesman Tanju Bilgic told Anadolu Agency that Turkey was monitoring the situation and urged the Iraqi authorities to secure their release as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu telephoned his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Sept. 4 to offer support.
Last September, 49 Turkish hostages were released from captivity in Iraq after they were captured by Daesh when the militants took the city of Mosul in June 2014.