Iraqi kidnappers set to release Turkish hostages: Ankara

Iraqi kidnappers set to release Turkish hostages: Ankara
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses the media in Ankara

ANKARA - Islamist militants who kidnapped 49 Turks at a Turkish consulate in northern Iraq in June will likely free them in the next day or two, Turkey's Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz said Saturday.

"We are pursuing contacts with all parties in Iraq. They (the hostages) may come back tomorrow or the day after tomorrow," Yilmaz said, quoted by the Dogan news agency.

Yilmaz said Ankara had opted for dialogue with the hostage-takers after ruling out any military operaton that could endanger the hostages.

Fighters from the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - later renamed Islamic State - kidnapped the 49 Turks, including diplomats and children, from the Turkish consulate in Mosul on June 11 as they captured swathes of northern Iraq.

Yilmaz's announcement was the first official word in weeks on the fate of the hostages, who include the general consul.

A few days after the abductions, a Turkish court imposed a blackout on media coverage of the incident citing fears for the security of other Turks in Iraq.

The militants had also snatched 32 Turkish truck drivers during the offensive, releasing them on July 3.

Observers saw the hostage-takings as retaliation soon after Ankara added the then-ISIL to its list of terrorist organisations.

Turkey has advised its nationals to leave Iraq apart from the relatively safe Kurdish region in the northeast.

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