ISTANBUL - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday no ransom was paid for the release of Turkish hostages held by Islamic State in Iraq and that it was the result of diplomatic and political negotiation.
Turkish intelligence agents brought 46 hostages seized by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq back to Turkey on Saturday after more than three months in captivity, in what Erdogan described as a covert rescue operation. "A material negotiation is totally out of the question ... This is a diplomatic success," he said before leaving for the UN General Assembly.
Security sources told Reuters on Saturday the hostages had been released overnight in the town of Tel Abyad on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey after being transferred from the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, Islamic State's stronghold. Officials declined to give details of the rescue operation.
The hostages, including Turkey's consul-general, diplomats'children and special forces soldiers, were seized from the Turkish consulate in Mosul on June 11 during a lightning advance by the Sunni insurgents.
Erdogan also said he had discussed a buffer zone on the Syrian border with US President Barack Obama and NATO allies at the NATO summit earlier this month.