Three Turkish workers held hostage in Iraq have been freed, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry official.
Their kidnappers had threatened to behead the three unless Turkish firms stopped cooperating with the U.S. military in Iraq.
The Turkish official said Tuesday the men informed the Turkish government they were on their way back to Turkey from Iraq. "We only know they have been released," Reuters quoted a Turkish government official as saying.
The Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera said a group led by al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had freed the three, who were kidnapped last week, "for the sake of Muslims in Turkey." In its announcement, the group said it released the hostages for the sake of those Turks, who demonstrated against U.S. policies during the NATO meeting in Turkey this week.
Turkish media reports have identified the three as Mustafa Bal, Mehmet Bakir and Abdulselam Bakir, all Turkish Kurds from Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast.
The captors said they decided to free the Turks "after they pledged not to support the non-believers again," meaning stop working for U.S. forces. "Please stop your silly (leaders) from cooperating with the occupying enemy, or else we will execute the punishment," the statement added.
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )