Turkey: 49 hostages have been freed

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Turkey: 49 hostages have been freed
A screen grab from a video posted to YouTube by ISIS that claims to show journalist James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 while covering the Syria civil war, being beheaded.
SALADIN, IRAQ - AUGUST 31: Iraqi armed forces have entered the northern town of Amirli which had been under the siege of Islamic State militants for over two months in Saladin ,Iraq on August 31, 2014. Supported by Kurdish forces and Shiite militias, the Iraqi army launched an offensive shortly after the U.S. carried out airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) positions near the town, and dropped aid for the nearly 20,000 Shiite Turkmen trapped in Amirli. The government forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces have been fighting against the militant group to block their advance. (Stringer - Anadolu Agency)
SALADIN, IRAQ - AUGUST 31: Shiite militias hold the Hezbollah flag after Iraqi forces have entered the northern town of Amirli which had been under the siege of Islamic State militants for over two months in Saladin ,Iraq on August 31, 2014. Supported by Kurdish forces and Shiite militias, the Iraqi army launched an offensive shortly after the U.S. carried out airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) positions near the town, and dropped aid for the nearly 20,000 Shiite Turkmen trapped in Amirli. The government forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces have been fighting against the militant group to block their advance. (Stringer - Anadolu Agency)
KHAZIR FRONTLINE, KRG, IRAQ - 2014/08/26: A Peshmerga soldier makes a victory sign on top of a bunker at the Khazir Frontline. Khazir refugee camp is located outside Kalak, a town halfway on the road between Erbil and Mosul. It was overrun by ISIS militants on the 7th of August following an unprecedented push of the Caliphate into Kurdish territory. Its thousands of Iraqi and Arab refugees were forced to flee again as the now deserted camp has become the new frontline between the Peshmerga and ISIS. It is the theatre of frequent U.S. airstrikes that have helped halt the ISIS advance into a stalemate situation. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 19: Iraqi army forces and Peshmerga forces take security precautions against possible Islamic State (IS)-led terrorist groups' attacks with heavy weapons and armoured vehicles around the Mosul Dam on August 19, 2014 in Mosul, Iraq. IS-led militants had seized the control of the dam and they were driven after the U.S. airstrikes and ground offensive of Iraqi troops. (Photo by Sivan Siddik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Peshmerga fighter looks at the remains of a car, bearing an image of the trademark jihadist flag, which reportedly belonged to Islamic State (IS) militants after it was targeted by an American air strike in the village of Baqufa, north of Mosul, on August 18, 2014. Kurdish peshmerga fighters backed by federal forces and US warplanes pressed a counter-offensive Monday against jihadists after retaking Iraq's largest dam, as the United States and Britain stepped up their military involvement. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 9: Fierce clashes keep going on between Peshmerga forces and Islamic State-led armed groups outside of Makhmur district of Mosul, Iraq on August 9, 2014. It's stated that Peshmerga forces silence the Islamic State members with attacks staged with Iraqi air forces' strikes, Katyusha rockets, howitzers and heavy weapons. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 9: Fierce clashes keep going on between Peshmerga forces and Islamic State-led armed groups outside of Makhmur district of Mosul, Iraq on August 9, 2014. It's stated that Peshmerga forces silence the Islamic State members with attacks staged with Iraqi air forces' strikes, Katyusha rockets, howitzers and heavy weapons. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during a primetime address to the nation from the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington, DC, September 10, 2014. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

An alleged ISIS militant calling himself 'the Palestinian Slayer'

Druze men stand in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights as they look at smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone (UNDOF) use binoculars to watch smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hold a position on the front line in the Gwer district, 40 kilometres south of Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, on September 18, 2014. France said that it will follow the United States in launching air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq, as the jihadists posted their latest video of a Western hostage. AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
A rebel fightercarries homemade mortar rounds on September 3, 2013 in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. UN leader Ban Ki-moon said on September 3, 2013 that a military strike on Syria over the use of chemical weapons could worsen the country's conflict. AFP PHOTO / MEZAR MATAR (Photo credit should read MEZAR MATAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Credit: Facebook
The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude.
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on 3, September 2014, after chairing an emergency meeting following the execution of a second US journalist by Islamist fighters in Iraq and the threat that a British hostage will be next. In a video showing the severed head of 31-year-old Steven Sotloff, a masked militant warned a British man, widely identified as David Cawthorne Haines, would be killed in response to US air strikes against militants in northern Iraq. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on 3, September 2014, after chairing an emergency meeting following the execution of a second US journalist by Islamist fighters in Iraq and the threat that a British hostage will be next. In a video showing the severed head of 31-year-old Steven Sotloff, a masked militant warned a British man, widely identified as David Cawthorne Haines, would be killed in response to US air strikes against militants in northern Iraq. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama leaves after speaking during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
NEWPORT, WALES - SEPTEMBER 04: US President Barack Obama (L) meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the NATO Summit on September 4, 2014 in Newport, Wales. Leaders and senior ministers from around 60 countries are meeting at what has been billed as the most important Nato summit since the end of the cold war with the situation in Ukraine and the threat of ISIS likely to be top of the agenda. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid - WPA Pool /Getty Images)
NEWPORT, WALES - SEPTEMBER 04: (L-R) British Prime Minister David Cameron, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and US President Barack Obama talk as they arrive at the NATO Summit on September 4, 2014 in Newport, Wales. Leaders and senior ministers from around 60 countries are gathering for the two day meeting where Ukraine and the ISIS hostages are likely to be discussed. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe - Pool/Getty Images)
NEWPORT, WALES - SEPTEMBER 04: British Prime Minister David Cameron gestures to US President Barack Obama as they arrive at the NATO Summit on September 4, 2014 in Newport, Wales. Leaders and senior ministers from around 60 countries are gathering for the two day meeting where Ukraine and the ISIS hostages are likely to be discussed. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe - Pool/Getty Images)
French President Francois Hollande holds a press conference with Madagascar president (unseen) at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on September 19, 2014. Earlier today, Hollande made a statement on France's first air strike in Iraq. French jets carried out their first air strike against Islamic State militants in Iraq, successfully destroying their target, Hollande announced, vowing that more operations would follow. Hollande himself visited Iraq late last week -- the most high-profile leader to do so since jihadists stormed across the country -- and Paris hosted an international conference on the crisis last Monday. AFP PHOTO FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Iraqi families from the Yazidi community cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing to safety, in northern Iraq, on August 13, 2014. At least 20,000 civilians, most of whom are from the Yazidi community, who had been besieged by jihadists on a mountain in northern Iraq have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said. The breakthrough coincided with US air raids on Islamic State fighters in the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq on August 9, and Kurdish forces from Iraq, Syria and Turkey working together to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and rescue the displaced AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Peshmerga forces hand out water bottles and show the way to displaced Iraqi families from the Yazidi community as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on August 11, 2014. At least 20,000 civilians, most of whom are from the Yazidi community, who had been besieged by jihadists on a mountain in northern Iraq have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said. The breakthrough coincided with US air raids on Islamic State fighters in the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq on August 9, and Kurdish forces from Iraq, Syria and Turkey working together to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and rescue the displaced. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 22: Syrians, fleeing from clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants and Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces in the Tal Abyad district of Syria's Ar-Raqqah Governorate, passing through Turkish border gate on September 22, 2014 in Suruc district of Sanliurfa province of Turkey. (Photo by Orhan Cicek/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Dozens of Turkish hostages seized by the Islamic State group in Iraq were freed Saturday, resolving a serious crisis which Turkish officials had long cited as a reason to avoid moving aggressively against the violent militant group.

The 49 hostages were captured from the Turkish Consulate in Mosul, Iraq on June 11, when the Islamic State group overran the city in its surge to seize large swaths of Iraq and Syria. But the circumstances of their release - which drew flag waving crowds to the Turkish capital's airport - were clouded in mystery.

Turkish leaders gave only limited details of the release and the hostages declined to answer all but the most general questions from journalists when they arrived at Ankara airport around midday Saturday.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported no ransom had been paid and "no conditions were accepted in return for their release" but the organization didn't cite any source for its reporting.

"I think it's fair to say that we haven't been told the full story," said Aaron Stein, an associate fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute who has studied Turkey's security policy.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the release was the result of the intelligence agency's "own methods," and not a special forces operations, but he didn't elaborate.

"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," Davutoglu said.

Families broke through security lines and rushed toward the plane to greet loved ones as they descended the stairs of Davutoglu's plane, whose arrival at Ankara's airport was broadcast live on Turkish television.

The joyous scene at the airport contrasts with the recent beheadings of two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker by the Islamic State group.

Hostages quizzed by journalists as they emerged from the plane said they couldn't go into detail as to the nature of their ordeal, but a couple of them hinted at ill treatment and death threats.

Ex-hostage Alptekin Esirgun told Anadolou that militants held a gun to Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz's head and tried to force him to make a statement.

Another, Alparslan Yel, said that the Islamic militants "treated us a little better because we are Muslims. But we weren't that comfortable. There was a war going on."

Turkey had been reluctant to join a coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, citing the safety of its 49 kidnapped citizens, but Stein said he doubted Turkey would suddenly adopt a much more muscular attitude toward the organization. Turkey might feel freer to advertise its existing efforts against the group, he said, citing its efforts to control oil smuggling across the border. But he said Turkey would not open its air bases to U.S. aircraft operating against the group.

"There will some changes, but not as much as people hope," he said.

Meanwhile the successful operation was likely to prove a boon to Turkey's government. During an impassioned speech following his flight's arrival in Ankara, Davutoglu, flanked by Yilmaz and others, took the opportunity to highlight Turkey's success and blast the political opposition. Davutoglu thanked the "nameless heroes" who were involved in the release.

Yilmaz, the freed consul general, thanked Turkish officials involved in his release but did not give details about their captivity or how they were freed.

He refused to take more questions, saying: "I haven't seen my family for 102 days. All I want to do is to go home with them."

It wasn't clear where the release took place, but the Anadolu Agency said the hostages had been held in eight separate addresses in Mosul. Their whereabouts were monitored by drones and other means, it said.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turks were freed through "a successful operation."

"I thank the prime minister and his colleagues for this operation which was pre-planned, whose every detail was calculated, which lasted through the night in total secrecy and ended successfully this morning," Erdogan said in a statement.

Iraqi military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the government had no information about the release of the hostages and didn't know where they had been held or where they were released.

Thirty-two Turkish truck drivers who were also seized in Mosul on June 6 were released a month later. Turkey did not provide information surrounding their release.

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