July 03, 2014

BAGHDAD (AP) — 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 Arbil 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 authoritization.

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.”

Mehmet Guzel in Istanbul contributed.