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Turkish construction company workers kidnapped in Iraq freed

Sixteen Turkish workers abducted by armed militants in Iraq have been released and are with embassy officials, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

Men are reportedly in good condition

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced the freeing of the construction workers early Tuesday. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Sixteen Turkish workers abducted by armed militants in Iraq have been released and are with embassy officials, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

The men were snatched on Sept. 2 from a stadium they were building on the outskirts of Baghdad, apparently by an armed group that used a familiar Shia Muslim slogan and threatened to attack Turkish interests in Iraq if its demands were not met.

They are expected to return to Turkey on Wednesday or Thursday after a debriefing, said Ugur Dogan, the chief executive of the men's employer Nurol Holding.

The men had appeared in an online video on Tuesday that promised their release after the United Nations backed a deal to extricate Syrian villagers under siege from rebels supported by Turkey.

"Our abducted 16 workers have just been received by our Baghdad embassy. I have spoken to some of them by telephone. Thankfully, they are in good health and are preparing to return [home] in the shortest possible time," Davutoglu said in a series of tweets.

"I thank from my heart our Iraqi friends who showed intensive efforts for our workers," he wrote.

A boy rides his bicycle on Sept. 2 past a stadium being built by a Turkish company in Baghdad's Habibiya district, where the men were working when they were abducted. (Ahmed Saad/Reuters)
Asked about the terms of the release, Faruk Kaymakci, the Turkish ambassador to Iraq, said none were discussed.

"Their health conditions are OK. They have no problem or anything," Kaymakci told Reuters.

Baghdad has struggled to rein in Shia armed groups, seen as a critical deterrent against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who control large swathes of the north and west.

The city has also seen a proliferation in recent years of well-armed criminal gangs carrying out contract killings, kidnappings and extortion.

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