A group of 16 Turkish construction workers that were kidnapped earlier this month from a worksite in Baghdad, allegedly by a Shia militia group, appeared on Sunday in a video that suggested they would eventually be released.
The footage shows the men, attired in similar light and dark gray shirts, kneeling. Text appears onscreen announcing that their release was decided after residents of Shia villages in Syria that were under attack by Sunni militants were allowed to safely evacuate due to a ceasefire agreement.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said that the workers have not been freed, and that "efforts still continue to secure" their release. The group holding the hostages did not specify when they would be liberated.
The kidnapping occurred on September 2, when gunmen in military uniforms who were later identified as members of a Shia militia called the Death Squad abducted 18 workers from a construction site at a stadium while they slept, authorities said at the time.
The group released an initial video of the workers in which they stated their names and pleaded with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to meet the captors' demands, including stopping Turkish fighters from going into Iraq, blocking the flow of "stolen oil" from Kurdistan, and ending attacks on Shia villages in Syria.
"We are foreign workers who have come here to earn our bread," one of the hostages said in the first video. "We are now victims as a result of some foreign policies, some meaningless, inconsistent business."
Iraq dispatched soldiers to locate and free the workers following their abduction, leading to a gun battle on September 4 between Iraqi troops and Ketaeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shia militia, that resulted in the death of one of the soldiers.
The captors released two of the workers two weeks after the kidnapping.
The new video comes four days after a UN-backed ceasefire hatched in an embattled part of Syria between the Syrian government and Iran on one side and Syrian rebels and the Turkish government on the other side allowed Shia civilians to evacuate.
In the footage, one of the workers reads a statement urging Erdogan to uphold his end of the bargain.
"We hope on this holy day of Eid al-Adha that Erdogan will not repeat [his actions] and will respect the innocent people of Iraq and Syria," the man said. The statement he read claimed that the hostages had not been mistreated.
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