Dozens of Turkish hostages who had been held by Islamist militants for three months were freed Saturday in northern Iraq.
Forty-nine people were seized in June when the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) raided the Turkish consulate in Mosul, abducting Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz, his family members and other citizens. All 49 have now been freed and returned to their home country, CNN reports. Forty-six of the captives were Turkish citizens.
Exactly how the hostages were returned to Turkey is unclear, but Turkish authorities described their release as the result of a late-night rescue operation. “At around 11:30 at night, this rescue effort reached its final stage,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a crowd in Ankara.
“I thank … every single member of the national intelligence agency from the director to the field operatives,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I congratulate them for their big success from the bottom of my heart.”
Mosul quickly capitulated when ISIS attacked the city on June 10.