Dozens of Turkish hostages seized by Islamic militants in Iraq three months ago were freed and safely returned to Turkey today, ending the nation's most serious hostage crisis. The 49 hostages were captured from the Turkish Consulate in Mosul, Iraq, on June 11, when ISIS overran the city in its surge to seize large swaths of Iraq and Syria. Their release contrasts with the recent beheadings of two US journalists and a British aid worker, but it wasn't immediately clear what Turkey had done to secure the safe return of the hostages.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the hostages are 49 Turkish consulate employees—46 Turks and three local Iraqis. Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said the hostages had been held in eight separate addresses in Mosul, their whereabouts monitored by drones and other means. Turkey had been reluctant to join a coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, citing the safety of its 49 kidnapped citizens. The United States had been careful not to push Turkey too hard as it tried to free the hostages. "After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours, our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back to our country," said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. (Read more Turkey stories.)